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For I have sworn upon the Altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of 
tyranny over the mind of man. Priv. Carres. 



Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1834, 

In the Clerk s Office of the District Court of the District of Massachusetts. 


THE materials for this volume are principally derived 
from the posthumous works of Mr Jefferson himself. 
These works were received with extraordinary approba 
tion by one great portion of the public, as was the case 
indeed with every thing which ever came from that re 
markable man ; and by another considerable portion, 
with a corresponding degree of dissatisfaction, always 
to be expected from the well known opinions of the 
Author on certain fundamental points, upon which a 
strongly marked division of public sentiment has pre 
vailed, since the foundation of the federal government. 

These works extend through four large octavo vol 
umes, of about 500 pages each ; nearly the whole of 
which is occupied with the Correspondence of the Au 
thor, public and private. And taken as a w r hole, it com 
prises the richest auto-biographical deposit, and one of 
the most valuable publications ever presented to the 
world. It. is written in a style of unrivalled felicity ; and 
supplies the record of many important transactions con 
nected with our government, of which no authentic me 
morials had been preserved. But it is in the light of a 



private revelation, making its disclosures from the in 
most recesses of the mind and character of the man, 
that its most distinguishing excellence consists. We 
have here the ungarbled contents of the cabinet of the 
author, gradually accumulating through an era among 
the most momentous in the annals of the world, and in 
which he was himself a principal actor, and incessantly 
placed in the most trying situations which it afforded. 
This vast collection of letters, compiled from the unre- 
vised manuscripts of the writer, thrown off on the spur 
of the occasion in the freedom of unrestrained confi 
dence, and spreading over a period of fifty years, have 
opened the folding-doors to the character of Mr Jeffer 
son, and introduced us into the sanctuary of his most 
secret meditations. They derive essential importance 
from the fact that at the time they were written, the 
author had no conception of their ever being made 

It would undoubtedly be a happy circumstance for 
this country, and for the mass of mankind, besides serv 
ing to enhance the reputation of the author, if these 
works could obtain a circulation which should place 
them in the hands of every reader ; for if any tiling 
could give stability to those principles, which form alike 
the basis of his renown, and the elements of the splen 
did structure of free government which he was instru 
mental in establishing, it would be such an extensive 
dissemination of his writings. Unfortunately, however, 
the form in which they have appeared, is not the most 
advantageous to the accomplishment of this desirable 
purpose. The publication is too voluminous, and con 
sequently too expensive, to admit of a general circula- 


tion ; nor is the mode of arrangement the best adapted 
to its reception into ordinary use as a work of reference. 

These considerations have suggested the plan of the 
present undertaking, which aspires to no higher claims 
than that of an analytic, and, it is hoped, a well assort 
ed generalization of the original publication. It has 
been the leading object of the compilation, to condense 
the most valuable substance of the four, within the com 
pass of one volume, and to supply what are presumed to 
be essential wants of the former, by interweaving a con 
nected narrative of the Author s Life. The more im 
portant political papers of Mr Jefferson, contained in 
the original works, have been copied into this, or their 
substance faithfully stated ; and many others of impor 
tance, that have been procured from other sources, are 
likewise introduced. 

The selections from his private correspondence are 
dispersed through the volume with reference to the topic 
under consideration, more than to the order of time ; 
and in making the quotations from this department, it 
has been the object to bring the greatest quantity of 
useful matter within the smallest space. Parts of let 
ters, therefore, are usually introduced rarely the whole 
of any one but sufficient to give the full sense of the 
writer on any required point, avoiding all extraneous 
observations. The historical and biographical portions 
of the work have also been derived, in great part, from 
this pregnant source. In some cases the very language 
of the author has been adopted, without invariably not 
ing it with the usual mark of credit. In all such cases, 
however, the style or the sentiment will be sufficiently 


distinguishable to place it where it belongs. Some parts 
of the narrative may appear overwrought with eulogy 
It is indeed a difficult matter to commemorate the deeds 
of so distinguished a benefactor of the human race, with 
out yielding in some degree to the influence of a passion 
which they are so justly calculated to inspire ; and the 
writer does not scruple to admit, that he has less en 
deavored to restrain his own grateful feelings, than to 
infuse them into the minds of his readers. 



IT was the good fortune of Washington to finish his 
unexampled career of usefulness, with universal appro 
bation. No such fate has attended any of his contem 
poraries, or successors. Mr Jefferson had many and 
powerful opponents to contend against, during the whole 
of his political career. Some of these were no doubt 
influenced by personal jealousies, and many by an honest 
difference of opinion. 

Where these differences involved matters of local or 
of temporary importance, it could answer no useful pur 
pose to bring them forward for renewed discussion at 
this late day ; and in the volume before us everything 
calculated to revive party animosities has been studious 
ly avoided, without however suppressing any thing that 
was necessary for historical accuracy, or to elucidate 
deliberate opinions, and develop essential traits of cha 


To such readers as have not been favored with the 
perusal of the valuable edition of Mr Jefferson s writ 
ings already alluded to, this unpretending volume may- 
prove a safe guide to the true character and sentiments 
of that distinguished man. 

The difference between Mr Jefferson and his honest 
opponents was this. The republicanism of Thomas 
Jefferson was too thorough, too radical, to be adopted 
even by a considerable portion of the best men of the 
Revolution. A disinterested sacrifice of personal safety 
to the welfare of the country was the same on the part 
of all, but Mr Jefferson had greater confidence in the 
wisdom and discretion of the people, than was enter 
tained by a majority of his patriotic and devoted fellow- 
laborers. Upon the organization of the government 
under the federal constitution, this difference in opinion 
soon became apparent in the councils of the nation 
and Mr Jefferson stood forth the champion of Democra 
cy. The more aristocratic party were inclined to re 
strain the people, under the apprehension that they 
were unqualified to govern themselves. This party was 
designated by the name of Federalists, and soon em 
bodied a very large proportion of the wealth and intelli 
gence of the nation. Deriving our literature, our laws, 
and our most respected usages from a nation where 
arbitrary institutions prevailed, it was quite natural that 
our intelligent citizens should desire an approximation 
to that form of government, and suppose it indispensa 
ble to tie up the hands of the people, in order to save 
them from working their own destruction. 

There can be no reason to doubt that here was an 


honest difference of opinion on the part of the Federal 
and of the Democratic leaders, whatever may have been 
the wicked animosity which grew up in the breasts of 
designing and ignorant men who afterwards arranged 
themselves under the banners of each party. Without 
pretending therefore to decide at this time to what extent 
either party might have erred, it is certainly to be desir 
ed that the prejudices which belonged to those times 
should now so far be overcome, as to qualify us to ap 
preciate fairly the talents and services of the great men 
of the Revolution, and render a just tribute to their 
merit, besides aiding us in the more necessary duty of 
acquainting ourselves with the character of our govern 
ment, of our existing institutions, and their effect upon 
the happiness of the people. 

From the commencement of the Revolutionary strug 
gle down to the period of his death, Mr Jefferson s pre 
dominating fear was, that the rights of the people would 
be disregarded. Neither was his love of liberty and of 
human happiness confined to one race of men. So ear 
ly as 1769, upon his first taking a seat in the legislature 
of Virginia, he had the hardihood to rise amidst that 
body of * inexorable planters, and propose a bill for the 
* permission of the Emancipation of Slaves. 

Whilst a member of the Continental Congress, he 
made use of these remarkable words : 

4 It can never be too often repeated, that the time for 
fixing every essential right on a legal basis, is while our 
rulers are honest, and ourselves united. From the con 
clusion of this war we shall be going down hill. It will 
not then be necessary to resort every moment to the people 
for support. They will be forgotten, therefore, and their 


rights disregarded. They will forget themselves but in 
the sole faculty of making money, and will never think 
of uniting to effect a due respect of their rights. The 
shackles, therefore, which shall not he knocked off at 
the conclusion of this war, will remain on us long, will 
be made heavier and heavier, till our rights shall revive, 
or expire, in a convulsion. 1 

Many of us now see the truth of this prophecy 
many of the present and of the coming generation may 
see and feel it both. 

Mr Jefferson was among the first to perceive the fal 
lacy of sustaining individual rights at the expense of 
the general welfare. With our English ancestors, the 
first struggle for civil liberty, was to guard the property 
of the private citizen against the encroachments of the 
crown and of the nobility. All that was thus gained to 
untitled individuals was considered as subtracted from 
an arbitrary and irresponsible power, over which the 
people possessed no control. With us, the government 
is not an independent and irresponsible power, but the 
agent of the people, and controlled by their will. There 
is, therefore, and there can be, under our form of gov 
ernment, no permanent usurpation on the part of those 
who administer it, and from this source we have no ar 
bitrary influence to apprehend that the ordinary remedy 
of election may not effectually control. 

The same right to acquired property which may be 
indispensable to the private citizen, who needs a defence 
against the usurpation of hereditary power, is not called 
for under a republican government, where nothing can 
be assumed by those in authority which does not imme 
diately revert to the people. What Justice Blackstone, 


therefore, in speaking of the British constitution, might 
correctly term a private right, would operate with us, as 
a public wrong. 

Many principles which we have adopted under the 
name of individual or private rights, and which original 
ly obtained as a necessary defence against arbitrary 
power, are wholly inapplicable under our form of gov 
ernment, and so far as persisted in, place individuals 
and incorporated associations above the control of law, 
and wholly independent of what is usually considered 
the province of legislation. They are invested with pri 
vileges that were created as a defence against abuses which 
can have no existence in a free commonwealth. 

That principle, therefore, which universally prevails, 
and which is adopted and placed upon the most stable 
foundation among us, the existing RIGHT to PROPERTY, 
is in fact an arbitrary principle, with no foundation in 
natural justice, having been originally set up to counteract 
other and greater usurpations, and preserve something 
like a balance of power in the miserable schemes of gov 
ernment which have hitherto afflicted the human family. 
The Right to Property, as now sustained to individuals, 
and as in some measure aggravated by charters to asso 
ciations, may be considered the only permanent usurpa 
tion that can exist under our constitution. It tolerates 
an inequality of possession that must forever prove fatal 
to republicanism, and gives to a successful few as gall 
ing a superiority over the multitude as could be confer 
red by hereditary rank, or by any other usurpation that 
prevails under more arbitrary forms of government. 
Upon this subject the American people will soon re 
quire a reform. They will eventually effect one. In 


the mean time would it not be prudent that the best in 
formed, the most judicious among us, should approach 
this subject as a matter well deserving the consideration 
of a free people, strip it of its borrowed sanctity, make 
it a subject of rational inquiry, and place it, where it 
has never yet been fairly recognized, within the pale of 



NATIVITY of Mr Jefferson. Peculiarity in the concealment of his 
birth-day Motives of his conduct in this particular Reply to the 
city authorities of Washington To Levi Lincoln, pp. 21, 22. Ge 
nealogy of Mr Jefferson Peculiarity by which it was marked 
Anecdote by Mr Madison. Character of his father. His early ed 
ucation Critical position of his boyhood His juvenile mind and 
habits Fondness for the classics For what qualities distinguished 
in College, pp. 23-26. Circumstances which decided the particular 
direction of his life. His character of Dr Small Of George Wythe. 
Commences the study of Law Extent of his researches. His de 
scription of the speech of Patrick Henry against the Stamp-act 
Influence of that scene upon his subsequent career. Mottos of his 
Seals, pp. 27-31. Enters the Practice of the Law Professional 
celebrity. Qualifications as an Advocate, pp. 32-34. 


Mr Jefferson comes of age. Elected to the Legislature. His 
first effort in that body for the Emancipation of Slaves Over 
whelming defeat of the measure. Progress of the Revolution. 
System of Non-intercourse adopted by the Colonies Its utility as 
an engine of coercion. Retaliatory resolutions of the British Par 
liament. Counter resolutions. Germ of the American Union. 
Sudden dissolution of the Legislature. Jefferson and others rally a 
private meeting at the Raleigh tavern. Influence of the revolu 
tionary proceedings in Virginia, pp. 35-41. Apathy of the Colo 
nistsHow viewed by Mr Jefferson. He devises measures for 
arousing them. Private meeting to set the machinery in motion 


Committees of Correspondence established Agency of this measure 
in promoting a General Congress. Legislature dissolved, pp. 42-46. 
Committees of Correspondence appointed by the other Colonies. 
News of the Boston Port Bill. Popular effervescence. Measures 
set in motion by Mr Jefferson. Appointment of a general Fast in 
Virginia Mr Jefferson s draft of the proclamation Effect of this 
measure throughout the Colonies. Legislature again dissolved. 
Association entered into by the members. Recommendation of a 
General Congress, pp. 47-52. 


The other Colonies unite in the measure of a General Congress, 
First democratic Convention in Virginia. Mr Jefferson elected a 
member. Instructions proposed by him for the Congressional Del 
egates Published by the Convention under the title of Summary 
View of the Rights of British America Re-published by the Whigs 
in Parliament -Bill of Attainder commenced against the author 
The Convention virtually assumes the government of the colony, 
pp. 53-60. Inequality of sentiment in the Convention. Grounds 
taken by Mr Jefferson. Resolution for putting the Colony into a 
state of warlike defence Its effect upon the older members Vio 
lent debates ensue Conduct of the opposition on its passage. Mr 
Jefferson elected a Delegate to Congress, pp. 61-65. Letter of Mr 
J. to Dr Small, in England. The regal Legislature of Virginia 
meets. Conciliatory Proposition of Lord North Mr Jefferson de 
signated to prepare the answer. Flight of the royal Governor, pp. 


Mr Jefferson takes his seat in the Continental Congress. He 
is appointed on the committee to prepare a Declaration of the 
Causes of taking up arms Character of the document. Dispari 
ty of sentiment in Congress. Extract from the War Manifesto, 
pp. 72-75. Mr Jefferson designated to prepare the answer of 
Congress to Lord North s Proposition. Re-elected to Congress. 
His draught of a Preamble, Declaration of Rights, and Constitution 


for Virginia. His opinion on the Constitution as adopted, and on 
popular government in general, at this epoch, pp. 76-84. Virginia 
instructs her Delegates in Congress to declare Independence. Pre 
paratory steps of Congress. Mr Jefferson appointed to prepare an 
animated Address. Introductory motion of Independence Power 
ful resistance to the measure. Committee appointed to prepare a 
Declaration of Independence Mr Jefferson designated to make the 
draught His report, pp. 85-88. Vehement opposition to the De 
claration Parts stricken out. The original instrument, with the 
alterations. Reception of the Declaration by the people. Extracts 
from his writings. Re-elected to Congress Reasons for declining 
Retirement. Appointed Commissioner to France Declines. 
Extract from his private memoranda, pp. 89-107. 


Mr Jefferson resumes his seat in the Virginia legislature. His 
bill for establishing a Judiciary System For abolishing the Law of 
Entails. Biases of Mr Jefferson against Aristocracy. His eulogi- 
um upon agriculturists. View of his objects in repealing the law 
of Entails. Preamble to the act, pp 108-112. His attack upon the 
hierarchy. History of the Church establishment in Virginia. Re 
sistance of the privileged order. Final success of his efforts Im 
portance of this achievement. He introduces a bill for abolishing 
the slave trade, pp. 113-119. He introduces a resolution for revis 
ing the legal Code of Virginia Appointed, with others, to execute 
the work. Project for a Dictator Resistance of Mr Jefferson. 

Meeting of the revisors of the Laws Distribution of the labor 

General propositions of Mr Jefferson Opinion of Mr Pendleton. 
Letter to Dr Franklin. Passage of his bill for abolishing the Slave 
traffic Older in which the example of Virginia was followed by 
other States. Committee of Revisors complete their task, pp. 


Revisors report to the Legislature Opinion of Mr Madison on 
the Revised Code Principal innovations by Mr J. His bill for 
abrogating the right of Primogeniture Opposition of the aristocra- 


cy. Bill for the establishment of Religious Freedom, pp. 134-140. 
Bill for the Emancipation of Slaves Extracts from his writings. 
His Criminal Code Extent of its innovations on the prevailing 
system Amendments proposed by him Passed. His Bill for the 
General Diffusion of Knowledge Fate of the Bill in the Legisla 
ture. Remarks on the general merits of the Revised Code. Re 
moval of Burgoyne s troops to Charlottesville, pp. 141-150. 


Mr Jefferson elected Governor. He institutes retaliatory measures 
on British prisoners Remonstrance of the British General His 
reply Approbation of the Commander in Chief. Effect of his poli 
cy upon the enemy. His measures for extending the western es 
tablishments of Virginia Success. Virginia cedes her unappro 
priated territory to the United States Effect of this measure, pp. 
157-164. Re-elected Governor. Distressing situation of Virginia. 
Extraordinary powers conferred on the Governor. Invasion of the 
State under Gen. Leslie. Invasion under Arnold. Capture of the 
metropolis. Attempt to seize Arnold. Invasion of Virginia by 
Cornwallis. Governor s appeal to the Commander in Chief for 
aid. Mr Jefferson declines a re-election. Closing events of his 
administration. Approbatory resolution of the Legislature. Tarl- 
ton s attack on Monticello. Story of Carter s mountain. Narrow 
escape of Mr Jefferson, pp. 165-178. Writes his Notes on Virginia. 
His comparison of American genius with that of Europe Remarks 
on the Constitution of Virginia on Slavery on Free Inquiry in 
Religion. Appointed a Commissioner to negotiate peace. His pur 
suits in retirement. Description of him by a traveller, pp. 179-194. 


Re-elected to Congress. Washington s resignation of the com 
mand of the army Description of the ceremony. Appointed chair 
man of the committee on the ratification of the treaty of Peace 
Debates. Contentious character of Congress, pp. 195-199. Ap 
pointed to draught a system of Uniform Currency for the United 
States, and establish a Money Unit Adoption of his plan. Is chair 
man of a committee to revise the treasury Department to draught 


a Plan of Government for the Western Territories. On a commit 
tee of retrenchment of locating and disposing the Western lands. 
Measures taken by Congress for investing the General Government 
with exclusive power to regulate Commerce, pp. 200-205. He 
submits a proposition for appointing a Committee of the States, 
to serve during the recesses of Congress Subsequent failure of the 
scheme; humorous anecdote of Doctor Franklin. General Wash 
ington consults him on the Cincinnati institution. Appointed Min 
ister Plenipotentiary, with Franklin and Adams, pp. 206-213. 


Accepts the appointment of Minister to Europe *- Arrival in 
France. Mr Adams joins his colleagues at Paris. General form 
of treaty. Result of the conference with the French Minister. 
Result of their propositions to the several Powers of Europe, pp. 
214-218. Appointed Resident Minister at the Court of Versailles 
Reception at that court. Visit to London Reception at the 
Court of St James. His tribute to La Fayette, and the Count de 
Vergennes. His project to engage the principal European Powers 
against the Piratical States Letter to Mr Adams His proposals 
Their reception, pp. 219-225. His measures for securing the for 
eign credit of the United States Visit to Holland. Extracts, on 
the state of society, &c, in Europe. Insurrections in America 
How viewed by him. ( Extracts from his letters to America. Move 
ments in the United States for forming a Constitution Agency of 
Mr Jefferson. His opinions on the new Constitution. His in 
fluence in producing the amendments, pp. 226-245. Proposed 
abandonment of the Mississippi Letter to Mr Madison. He intro 
duces into the Southern States upland cotton and the olive tree. 
Tour through France and Italy Extracts. His scientific and lite 
rary efforts in France. Endeavors to improve the architecture of 
the United States, pp. 246-256. Opening scenes of the French 
Revolution. His Letter, accompanied with a Charter of Rights 
Consultation at his house Apology Character of the Queen. 
Departure, and Farewell tribute to France. Arrival in Virginia. 
Receives the appointment of Secretary of State. Arrival at the 
Seat of Government, pp. 257-267. 



Political elements of Washington s cabinet. Hamilton, Adams, 
and Knox. Extensive duties of the State Department. His Re 
port on Coins, &c. Its outlines. Report on the Cod and Whale 
Fisheries ; its general features. Report on Commerce and Naviga 
tion, pp. 268-275. His duties as to foreign affairs. Extracts from 
his instructions to our minister in Spain, on the Navigation of the 
Mississippi, &c. His controversy with Mr Hammond. Instruc 
tions to our minister at London on Impressment. Intemperate 
character of the French minister. Request for his recall decided 
upon. Mr Jefferson s retirement from the Cabinet, pp. 276-288. 


View of Mr Jefferson in retirement, &c. Extracts from his 
works. Appointed President of the Amer. Philo. Society ; his an 
swer. Question of a successor to Washington agitated Character 
of the contest. Election of Adams, pp. 289-293. 


Mr Jefferson s arrival as Vice President, and precaution to elude 
ceremony. Determination regarding executive consultations. Sep 
aration between him and the President. Parties bring out their 
candidates for the Presidency. Character of the contest. Licen 
tiousness of the Press against Jefferson. Notice of some of the 
principal libels on his character; his singular passiveness. Extract 
from his works. Result of the election by the people. Constitu 
tional difficulty. Election scenes in the House, pp. 294-302. 


Inauguration of Jefferson. Description of the ceremony. Inau 
gural address. Formation of the Cabinet. Removal of officers, 
and rules of action. Private rescript of reform meditated by him. 
Abolition of levees. Anecdote of Washington. Rule of receiving 
company, pp. 303-308. Principle of reform. Reduction of the 
army and navy ; abolition of superfluous offices, &c. Measures of 


the President relating to the international code of mankind. Chas 
tisement of the Mediterranean pirates. His first annual message. 
Propositions of reform. Effect of the proposition to abolish inter 
nal taxes, and his private explanation, pp. 309-318. System of 
finance adopted by the President. Measures adopted by him for the 
Purchase of Louisiana. Ratification of the treaty. Policy of the 
Executive towards the Indians Towards foreign nations. His views 
on commerce, treaties and alliances. Rejection of the treaty nego 
tiated with Great Britain. Opinions of the President on the Navy. 
Letter of John Adams to him, and reply. Gun Boats, pp. 319-342. 
Re-elected. jSecond inaugural address. His views on the most eli 
gible arrangement of the Tariff after the discharge of the public 
debt, and on the distribution of the surplus revenue. Conspiracy 
of Burr; his designs, and trial. Immovable tenure of the Judicia 
ry. Correspondence of Jefferson on the subject. Foreign rela 
tions of the United States. .Embargo. Impressment. Attack on 
the Chesapeake. Causes of opposition to the Embargo, pp. 343- 
355. Policy of the President on the Freedom of Speech, and the 
Press Anecdote. He discharges those suffering under the Sedi 
tion law. Refuses to permit prosecutions for libels against himself. 
His policy on Freedom of Religion. His personal religious observ 
ances. Review of the minor traits of his administration. Exam 
ples of his simplicity and disinterestedness, pp. 356-361. Private 
labors, &c, of the President. His syllabus of the doctrines of 
Christianity. Correspondence with literary men, and different so 
cieties in Europe. Efforts for the introduction of Vaccination. 
His labors on colonization. Improvements bestowed on the city of 
Washington. Anecdote of Bonaparte. Urgency of the people for 
his second re-election, pp. 362-368. Extracts from his letters. 
Retires to private life. Gratulations of the people. His reply to 
the citizens of Washington. He declines all ceremony. Address 
of the citizens of his native county His affecting reply. Farewell 
address of the Virginia Legislature, pp. 369-375. 


His retirement. His principal objects of employment. Hi; 
OPINIONS On the Constitution, and popular Rights On the 


Relative Powers of the General and State governments On the 
Relative Powers of the three branches of the General government 
On Internal Improvement, constructive powers, &c. On Domestic 
Manufactures On the Laboring Classes, Agriculture On the Na 
tional Bank On Political Parties His character of the Sovereigns 
of Europe His portraiture of General Washington On Religion 
On the Loss of Friends. On the Studies of young men On 
Rules for the regulation of their moral conduct. His Physical Hab 
its, pp. 376-395. His system of employment in retirement. De 
scription of Monticello. Portraiture of Mr Jefferson, by a guest. 
Number of letters received by him. Treachery of correspondents. 
His efforts to revive ancient affections between Mr Adams and 
himself. Receives a friendly opening from Mr Adams. Letter to 
Dr Rush. Correspondence with Adams. Extracts, pp. 396-413. 
University of Virginia His agency, and leading object in its es 
tablishment. State of his finances. Alarming state of his health. 
Letter to the mayor of Washington. Particulars of his last hours. 
Extraordinary circumstances of his death. Epitaph by himself, pp. 





THOMAS JEFFERSON was born April 2d, 1743, on the 
farm called Shadwell, adjoining Monticello, in the coun 
ty of Albermarle, Virginia. The date of his nativity was 
unknown to the public until after his decease. Repeated 
attempts had been made to ascertain it, by formal appli 
cations to him on various occasions, both by individuals 
and public bodies; but from scruples of a patriotic nature, 
he always declined revealing it, and enjoined the same 
privacy upon his family. The principles which deter 
mined him on this subject, were the great indelicacy and 
impropriety of permitting himself to be made the recipi 
ent of a homage, so incompatible with the true dignity 
and independence of the republican character ; and the 
still greater repugnance which he should feel, at seeing 
the birth-day honors of the Republic transferred, in any 

22 *. . LIrFE OF . 

degree, to any individual. Soon after his inauguration 
in 1801, he was waited on by the Mayor and Corporation 
of the city of Washington, with the request that he would 
communicate the anniversary of his birth, as they were 
desirous of commemorating an event which had confer 
red such distinguished glory upon their country. He 
replied, The only birth-day which I recognize, is that 
of my country s liberties. In August, 1803, he received 
I a similar communication from Levi Lincoln, in behalf of 
a certain association in Boston ; to which he replied: 
Disapproving myself of transferring the honors and 
veneration for the great birth-day of our Republic, to any 
individual, or of dividing them with individuals, I have 
declined letting my own birth-day be known, and have 
engaged my family not to communicate it. This has 
been the uniform answer to every application of the kind. 
On the paternal side, Mr Jefferson could number no 
titles to high or ancient lineage. His ancestors, however, 
were of solid respectability, and among the first settlers 
of Virginia. They emigrated to this country from Wales, 
and from near the mountain of Snowden. His grand 
father was the first of whom we have any particular in 
formation. He had three sons ; Thomas, who died young; 
Field, who resided on the waters of the Roanoke, and 
left numerous descendants ; and Peter, the father of the 
subject of these memoirs, who settled in Albemarle 
county, on the lands called Shadwell. He was the third 
or fourth settler in that region of the country. They 
were all gentlemen of property and influence in the col 

But the chief glory of Mr Jefferson s genealogy was 
1 the sturdy contempt of hereditary honors and distinctions, 
I with which the whole race was imbued. It was a strong 
; genealogical feature, pervading all the branches of the 
primitive stock, and forming a remarkable head and con 
centration in the individual who was destined to confer 
immortality upon the name. With him, indeed, if there 


was any one sentiment which predominated in early life, 
and which lost none of its rightful ascendency through a > 
long career of enlightened and philanthropic effort, it r 
was that of the natural equality of all men in their rights 
and wants ; and of the nothingness of those pretensions 
which * are gained without merit and forfeited without 
crime. The boldness with which, on his first entrance 
into manhood, he attacked and overthrew the deep rooted 
institutions of Primogeniture and Entails, forms a stri 
king commentary upon this attribute of his character. 
An anecdote is related by Mr Madison, which is no less 
apposite and striking. During the infant stages of our 
separate sovereignty, the slowness with which the wheels, 
of government moved, and the awkwardness of its forms, 
were everywhere the prominent topics of conversation. 
On one occasion, at which Mr JeiFerson was present, a 
question being started concerning the best mode of pro 
viding the executive chief, it was among other opinions, 
gravely advanced that an hereditary designation was 
preferable to any elective process that could be devised. 
At the close of an eloquent effusion against the agitations 
and animosities of a popular choice, and in favor of birth, 
as on the whole affording a better chance for a suitable 
head of the government, Mr Jefferson with a smile re 
marked, that he had heard of a University someiohere, in 
which the Professorship of Mathematics was hereditary ! 

His father, Peter Jefferson, was born February 29th, 
1707-3 ; and intermarried in 1739 with Jane Randolph 
of the age of 19, daughter of Isham Randolph, one of 
the seven sons of that name and family settled at Dun- 
geoness in Goochland county, who trace their pedigree 
far back in England and Scotland ; to which, says Mr 
Jefferson, * let every one ascribe the faith and merit he 
chooses. He was a self-educated man ; but rose steadily 
by his own exertions, and acquired considerable distinc 
tion. He was commissioned, jointly with Joshua Fry, 
professor of mathematics in William and Mary College, 


to designate the boundary line between Virginia and 
North-Carolina ; and was afterwards employed, with the 
same gentleman, to construct the first regular map of 
Virginia. He died August 17, 1757, leaving a widow, 
with six daughters, and two sons, of whom Thomas was 
the elder. To both the sons he left large estates ; to 
Thomas the Shadwell lands, where he was born, and 
which included Monticello ; to his brother the estate on 
James river, called Snowden, after the reputed birth 
place of the family. The mother of Mr Jefferson sur 
vived to the fortunate year of 1776, the most memorable 
epoch in the annals of her country, and in the life of her 

At the age of five, Thomas was placed by his father at 
/ an English school, where he continued four years; at the 
f expiration of which, he was transferred to a latin school, 
where he remained five years, under the tuition of Mr 
Douglass, a clergyman from Scotland. With the rudi 
ments of the latin and Greek languages, he acquired at 
the same time, a knowledge of the French. At this pe 
riod his father died, leaving him an orphan only fourteen 
years of age, and without a relative or friend competent 
to direct or advise him. 

An interesting reminiscence of this critical period of 
his boyhood, and of the simple moral process by which 
he subdued and wrought into instruments of the greatest 
good, the perilous circumstances of his position, is con 
tained in an affectionate letter, written more than fifty 
years afterwards, to his grandson then in Philadelphia. 
It is replete with sound admonition, applicable to every 
condition of youth, besides affording an insight into the 
juvenile mind and habits of the writer. 

Your situation, thrown at such a distance from us 
and alone, cannot but give us all great anxieties for you. 
As much has been secured for you by your particular 
position and the acquaintance to which you have been 
recommended, as could be done towards shielding you 


from the dangers which surround you. But thrown on 
a wide world, among entire strangers, without a friend 
or guardian to advise, so young too, and with so little 
experience of mankind, your dangers are great, and still 
your safety must rest on yourself. A determination never 
to do what is wrong, prudence, and good humor, will go 
far towards securing to you the estimation of the world. 
When I recollect that at fourteen years of age, the whole 
care and direction of myself was thrown on myself en 
tirely, without a relation or friend qualified to advise or 
guide me, and recollect the various sorts of bad company 
with which I associated from time to time, I am astonished 
I did not turn off with some <rf them, and become as 
worthless to society as^ they were. I had the good fortune 
to become acquainted very early with some characters of 
very high standing, and to feel the incessant wish that I 
could ever become what they were. Under temptations 
and difficulties, I would ask myself what would Dr -Small, 
Mr Wythe, Peyton Randolph, do in this situation? 
What course in it will ensure rne their approbation ? I 
am certain that this mode of deciding on my conduct, 
tended more to its correctness than any reasoning powers 
I possessed. Knowing the even and dignified line they 
pursued, I could never doubt for a moment which of two 
courses_would |^gjn character for them. Whereas, seek 
ing the same object through a process of moral reasoning, 
and with the jaundiced eye of youth, I should often have 
erred. From the circumstances of my position, I was 
often thrown into the society of horse-racers, card-play 
ers, fox hunters, scientific and professional men, and of dig 
nified men; and many a time have I asked myself, in the 
enthusiastic moment of the death of a fox, the victory of 
a favorite horse, the issue of a question eloquently argued 
at the bar, or in the great council of the nation, well, 
which of these kinds of reputation should I prefer ? That 
of a horse-jockey ? a fox-hunter? an orator? or the honest 
advocate of my country s rights ? Be assured, my dear 
Jefferson, that these little returns into ourselves, this 
self-catechising habit, is not trifling, nor useless, but 

\leads to the prudent selection and steady pursuit of what 

iis right. 

On the death of his father, Mr Jefferson was placed 


under the instruction of the Rev Mr Maury, to complete 
the necessary preparation for college. He continued 
with Mr Maury two years; and then (1760) at the age 
of seventeen he entered the college of William and Mary, 
at which he was graduated, two years after, with the 
highest honors of the institution. 

While in college he was more remarkable for solidity 
than sprightliness of intellect. His faculties were so 
even and well balanced, that no particular endowment 
appeared pre-eminent. His course was not marked by 
any of those eccentricities which often presage the rise 
^ of extraordinary gerifus ; but by that constancy of pursuit, 
J that inflexibility of purpose, that bold spirit of inquiry, 
and thirst for knowledge, which are the surer prognostics 
of future greatness. His habits were those of patience 
and severe application, which, aided by a quick and vig 
orous apprehension, a talent of close arid logical combi 
nation, and a retentive memory, laid the foundation suf 
ficiently broad and strong for those extensive acquisitions 
j which he subsequently made. The mathematics were 
* his favorite study, and in them he particularly excelled. 
Nevertheless, he distinguished himself in-all the branches 
of education embraced in the established course of that 
college. To his devotion to philosophy and science, he 
\ united an exquisite taste for the fine arts. In those of 
architecture, painting and sculpture, he made himself 
such an adept as to be afterwards accounted one of the 
best critics of the age. For music he had an uncommon 
passion; and his hours of relaxation were passed in exer 
cising his skill upon the violin, for which he evinced an 
early and extravagant predilection. His fondness for 
the ancient classics strengthened continually with his 
strength, insomuch that it is said he scarcely passed a 
day, in after life, without reading a portion of them. 
The same remark is applicable to his passion for the 
mathematics. He became so well acquainted with both 
V the great languages of antiquity as to read them with 


ease ; and so far perfected himself in French as to be-\ ( 
,-come familiar with it, which was, subsequently, of essen-\ 
tial service to him in his diplomatic labors. He could \ 
read and speak the Italian language, and had a compe- 
tent knowledge of the Spanish. He also made himself 
master of the Anglo-Saxon, as a root of the English, and j 
an element in legal philology. 

The acquaintances he happily formed in college pro 
bably determined the cast and direction of his ambition. 
These were the first characters in the whole province ; 
among whom, he has placed on record the names of 
three individuals who were particularly instrumental in 
fixing his future destinies : viz. Dr Small, one of the pro 
fessors in college, t who made him his daily compan 
ion; Gov. Fauquier, the ablest man who had ever filled 
that office, to whose acquaintance and familiar table 
he was admitted ; and George Wythe, his faithful and 
beloved mentor in youth, and his most affectionate friend 
through life. 

4 It was, says he, * my great good fortune, and what 
probably fixed the destinies of my life, that Dr William 
Small, of Scotland, was then professor of mathematics, 
a man profound in most of the useful branches of science, y 
with a happy talent of communication, correct and gen- \ 
tlemanly manners, and an enlarged and liberal mind. 
He most happily for me, became soon attached to me, 
and made me his daily companion when not engaged in 
the school ; and from his conversation I got my first 
views of the expansion of science, and of the system of, 
things in which we are placed. Fortunately, the philo 
sophical chair became vacant soon after my arrival at 
college, and he was appointed to fill it per interim; and 
he was the first who ever gave, in that college, regular 
lectures in Ethics, Rhetoric, and Belles Lettres. 

To Governor Fauquier, with whom he was in habits 
of intimacy, is also ascribed a high character. With 
the exception of an unfortunate passion for gaming, he 
was every thing that could have been wished for by Vir- 


ginia, under the royal government. With him, con 
tinues Mr Jefferson, and at his table, Dr Small and Mr 
Wythe, his amid omnium horarum, and myself, formed a\ 
partie quarree, and to the habitual conversations on these 
occasions, I owed much instruction. 

Gyetfrge "Wydie was emphatically a second father to 
oung Jefferson. He was born about the year 1727, on the 
shores of the Chesapeake. His education had been neg 
lected by his parents ; and himself had led an idle and volup- 

/ tuous life until the age of thirty ; but by an extraordinary 
effort of self-recovery at that point of time, he overcame 

both the want and the waste of early advantages. He 
was one of the foremost of the Virginia patriots during 

\ the revolution ; and one of the highest legal, legislative, 

\and judicial characters which that State has furnished. 
iHe was early elected to the House of Delegates, then 
cklled the House of Burgesses, and continued in it until 
transferred to Congress, in 1775. He was one of the 
signers of the Declaration of Independence, of which he 
had been an eminent supporter. The same year he was 
appointed by the Legislature of Virginia, one of the 
celebrated committee to revise the laws of the State. 
In 1777, he was chosen Speaker of the House of Dele 
gates ; and the same year was appointed Chancellor 
of the State, an office which he held until his death, in 
1806, a period of thirty years. 

( No man, says Mr Jefferson, ever left behind him a 
character more venerated than George Wythe. His 
virtue was of the purest tint; his integrity inflexible, and 
his justice exact ; of warm patriotism, and, devoted as 
he was to liberty, and the natural and equal rights of 
man, he might truly be called the Cato of his country, 
without the avarice of the Roman ; for a more disinter 
ested person never lived. Temperance and regularity 
in all his habits gave him general good health, and his 
unaffected modesty and suavity of manners endeared him 
to every one. He was of easy elocution, his language 
chaste, methodical in the arrangement of his matter, 


learned and logical in the use of it, and of great urbanity 
in debate ; not quick of apprehension, but, with a little 
time, profound in penetration, and sound in conclusion. 
In philosophy he was firm, and neither troubling, nor 
perhaps trusting, any one with his religious creed, he 
left the world to the conclusion, that that religion must be 
good which could produce a life of such exemplary virtue. 
His stature was of the middle size, well formed and pro 
portioned, and the features of his face were manly, 
comely, and engaging. Such was George Wythe, the 
honor of his own, and the model of future times. 

Immediately on leaving college, Mr Jefferson engaged V 
in the study of the Law, under the direction of Mr 
Wythe. Here, it is said, he became thoroughly acquaint 
ed with the civil and common law; exploring every topic, 
and fathoming every principle. Here also, he is said to 
have acquired that facility, neatness, and order in busi 
ness, which gave him in effect, the hundred hands of 
Briareus. With such a guide, and in such a school, all 
the rudiments of intellectual greatness could not fail of 
being stirred into action. The occasion was not long 
wanting to display the master passion of his nature in 
bold and prominent relief. 

/ At the time when his faculties were strengthened by 
/manhood, an incident occurred, which fixed them in their y 
I meditated sphere, and kindled his native ardor into a A 
* flame. 

That was the celebrated speech of Patrick Henry, |/( 
on the memorable resolutions of 1765, against the 
Stamp-Act. Young Jefferson listened to the bold, 
grand, and overwhelming eloquence of the orator of na 
ture ; the effect of which seerns never to have lost its 
sorcery over his mind. More than fifty years after 
wards he reverts to it with all the vividness of the first 
impression. He appeared to me, says he, to speak as 
Homer wrote. The effect was indeed tremendous. It 
struck even that veteran and dignified assembly aghast. 
The resolutions were moved by Henry > and seconded 


by Mr Johnston. They were resisted by the whole mo 
narchical body of the House of Burgesses, as a matter 
of course. Besides, they were deemed so ill advised in 
point of time, as to rally in opposition to them all the 
old members, including such men as Peyton Randolph, 
Wythe, Pendleton, Nicholas, Bland, &c, honest patriots, 
whose influence in the House, had till then been un 
broken. But, says Jefferson, torrents of sublime elo 
quence from Henry, backed by the solid reasoning of 
Johnston, prevailed. The last, however, and strongest 
resolution, was carried but by a single vote. The debate 
on it was most bloody. I was then but a student, and stood 
at the door of communication between the house andthe 
lobby during the whole debate and vote ; and I well re 
member, that, after the numbers, on the division, were 
told and declared from the chair, Peyton Randolph, the 
Attorney-General, came out at the door where I was 

standing, and said, as he entered the lobby, " by , I 

would have given 500 guineas for a single vote : for one 
vote would have divided the House, and Robinson was 
in the chair, who he knew would have negatived the 
resolution." ! It was in the midst of this magnificent 
appeal that Henry is said to have exclaimed, in a voice 
of thunder, Caesar had his Brutus Charles the First 
his Cromwell and George the Third ("Treason," 
cried the Speaker "treason, treason," echoed from 
every part of the House. Henry faultered not ; but 
rising to a loftier attitude, and fixing a determined eye 
on the Speaker, finished his sentence with the firmest 
emphasis,) may profit by their example. If this be treason 
make the most of it. * I well remember, says Jeffer 
son, the cry of treason, the pause of Henry at the name 
of George the Third, and the presence of mind with 
which he closed his sentence, and baffled the vociferated 

The grandeur of that scene, and the triumphant eclat 

* Wirt s Life of Patrick Henry, page G5. 


of Henry, made the heart of young Jefferson ache for 
the propitious moment which should enrol him among 
of pf>rsf p1ltpA > hlirnnnit y The tone and 

strength of his mind, at tfiis early period, are indicated 
by those emphatic mottos which he selected- for his seals : 
* Ab eo tibertas, a quo spiritusS and Resistance to tyrants 
is obedience to God. 1 These mottos attracted great at-v 
tention, and were regarded as prophetic of his destiny. 
They are well remembered to this day by the aged inhab 
itants of Virginia. The seals themselves are preserved 
as sacred relics, by the family of Mr Jefferson ; and ac 
curate impressions of them in wax have been obtained 
by his particular friends in various parts of the country. 

Various attempts have been made to ascertain the 
birth of opinions on the subject of American Independ 
ence ; and to fix the precise epoch, and the particular 
individual, when and with whom the stupendous concep 
tion originated. The enquiry has been attended with 
no success, and is from the nature of the case incapable 
of solution. It is evident that the measure did not result 
from any deliberate and preconcerted design on the part 
of one, or of any number of individuals ; but from a 
combination of causes, growing for the most part out of 
the mistaken policy of the British Parliament, and fos 
tered and matured by its unyielding obstinacy. It was 
the slow and legitimate growth of political oppression, 
assisted it is true, by the great advance of certain minds 
beyond the general step of the age. To use the phrase 
ology of Mr Jefferson, it would be as difficult to say at 
what moment the revolution began, and what incident 
set it in motion, as to fix the moment that the embryo 
becomes an animal, or the act which gives him a begin 

It is certain that if this subject were examined with 
reference to its bearing upon a Jefferson, it might with 
equal propriety be advanced, that in those pointed inscrip 
tions which he selected in the fire of youth as the mottos 


of his seals, we discover the germ, not merely of Ameri 
can emancipation but of European revolution, and of 
the general amelioration of associated man throughout 
the world. The revolution itself was but a preparatory 
movement. The mere separation of the colonies from 
the mother country, was but the introductory stage of 
the grand and fundamental change through which they 
were to pass to derive any essential advantages from the 
act to wit, the entire abrogation of royalty, and sub 
stitution of self-government. Nay, even this magnificent 
result was but the first chapter in the history of the great 
moral and political regeneration which is advancing 
over the earth, and to which the revolution gave the 
primary impulse. Unless contemplated in the broad 
light of a contrast of principle, between the advocates of 
republican and those of kingly government, into which 
it finally resolved itself, it is of little importance to en 
quire what incident gave it birth, or who set it in motion. 
Stopping at the point at which many, who were the 
boldest at the outset, evidently wished it to stop, and with 
honest motives, the Revolution would have been nothing 
more, in effect, than transferring the government to 
other hands, without putting it into other forms ; and no 
change would have been wrought in the political condi 
tion of the world. It would have been merely a spirited 
and successful rebellion, or rather a struggle for power, 
like that which long embroiled the royal races of the 
Plantagenets, Tudors, and Stuarts, terminating at best 
in a limited modification of the old system, and most 
likely in its entire adoption, substituting George or John 
the First in the place of George the Third. 

The solution of the problem, therefore, if practicable, 
would afford no criterion of the relative advance of the 
leading minds of that period. But the question becomes 
a rational one, and assumes a powerful interest, if pre 
sented in its proper aspect, with whom those eternal rules 
of political reason and right originated, which crowned 


with glory and immortality the American Revolution, 
making it one in substance as well as form ? To whom 
belongs the honor of conceiving the grand project that 
gave to those detached fragments of empire which formed 
the nucleus of the American nation, not only shape and 
organization, but a new projectile impulse, to revolve in 
an untried orbit, under the control of a new equilibrium 
of forces 1 Viewing the subject under these, its moral 
phases, it becomes of some consequence to ascertain the 
origin and progress of individual opinions. 

In 1767, Mr Jefferson was inducted into the practice 
of the Law, at the bar of the General Court, under the 
auspices of his preceptor and friend, Mr Wythe. He 
brought with him into practice the whole body of ancient 
and modern jurisprudence, text and commentary, from 
its rudest monuments in Anglo-Saxon, to its latest deposi 
tories in the vernacular tongue, well systematised in his 
his mind, and ready for use at a moment s warning. But 
his professional career was brief, and not favored with 
any occasion adequate to disclose the fitness of his 
technical preparation, or the extent of his abilities as an 
advocate. The out-breaking of the Revolution, which 
occasioned a general abandonment of the Courts of Jus 
tice, followed close upon his introduction to the bar ; 
and ushered him upon a broader and more diversified 
theatre of action. 

During the short interval he spent in his profession, 
he acquired considerable celebrity ; but his forensic re 
putation was so disproportionate to his general pre-emi 
nence, as to have occasioned the common impression, that 
he was deficient in the requisite qualifications for a suc 
cessful practitioner at the bar. That this was not the 
case, however, we have the authority of a gentleman,* 
whose opportunities of information and well known trust 
worthiness are a pledge of the literal accuracy of his 
statement. Permit me, says he, to correct an error 

* William Wirt. 


which seems to have prevailed. It has been thought 
that Mr Jefferson made no figure at the bar : but the 
case was far otherwise. There are still extant, in his 
own fair and neat hand, in the manner of his mas 
ter, a number of arguments which were delivered by him 
at the bar upon some of the most intricate questions of 
the law; which, if they shall ever see the light, will vin 
dicate his claims to the first honors of the profession. 

Again, we have the authority of the same gentleman 
upon another interesting point. It will be new to the 
reader to learn that Mr Jefferson was any thing of a 
popular orator. It is true, continues the writer, he 
was not distinguished in popular debate ; why he was 
not so, has often been matter of surprise to those who 
have seen his eloquence on paper, and heard it in con 
versation. He had all the attributes of the mind, and 
the heart, and the soul, which are essential to eloquence 
of the highest order. The only defect was a physical one : 
he wanted volume and compass of voice for a large de 
liberative assembly ; and his voice, from the excess of 
his sensibility, instead of rising with his feelings and 
conceptions, sunk under their pressure, and became gut- 
teral and inarticulate. The consciousness of this infir 
mity repressed any attempt in a large body, in which he 
knew he must fail. But his voice was all sufficient for 
the purposes of judicial debate ; and there is no reason 
to doubt, that if the services of his country had not call 
ed him away so soon from his profession, his fame as a 
lawyer, would now have stood upon the same distinguish 
ed ground which he confessedly occupies as a statesman, 
an author, and a scholar. 



MR JEFFERSON came of age in 1764. He had scarcely 
arrived at his majority, when he was placed in the nomi 
nation of Justices for the county in which he lived ; and 
at the first election following, was chosen one of its Re 
presentatives to the Legislature. 

He took his seat in that body in May, 1769, and dis 
tinguished himself at once by an effort of philanthropy, 
to which the steady process of liberal opinions for sixty 
years has not brought the tone of public sentiment ; at 
least, so far as to reconcile the majority to the personal 
sacrifices which it involves. The moral intrepidity that 
could prompt him, a new member, and one of the 
youngest in the House, to rise from his seat with the 
composure of a martyr, and propose amidst a body of 
inexorable planters, a bill i for the permission of the 
Emancipation of Slaves? gave an unequivocal earnest of 
his future career. He was himself a slave holder, and 
from the immense inheritance to which he had succeeded, 
probably one of the largest in the House. He knew too, 
that it was a measure of peculiar odium, running coun 
ter to the strongest interests, and most intractable preju 
dices of the ruling population ; that it would draw upon 
him the keen resentments of the wealthy and the great, 
who alone held the keys of honor and preferment at 
home, besides banishing forever all hope of a favorable 
consideration with the government. In return for this 
array of sacrifices, he saw nothing await him but the 
satisfaction of an approving conscience, and the distant 


commendation of an impartial posterity. He could have 
no possible motive but the honor of his country, and the 
gratification of his own benevolence. 

The announcement of the proposition gave a shock to 
the aristocracy of the House. It touched their sensibili 
ties at a most irritable point, and was rejected by a sud- 
en and overwhelming vote. Yet the courteous and 
conciliatory account which Mr Jefferson has left of the 
transaction, ascribes the failure of the bill to the vicious 
and despotic influence of the government, which, by its 
unceasing frown, overawed every attempt at reform, 
rather than to any moral depravation of the members 
themselves. Our minds, says he, were circumscribed 
within narrow limits, by an habitual belief that it was 
our duty to be subordinate to the mother country in all 
matters of government, to direct all our labors in sub 
servience to her interests, and even to observe a bigoted 
intolerance for all religions but hers. The difficulties 
with our Representatives were of habit and despair, not 
of reflection and conviction. Experience soon proved 
that they could bring their minds to rights, on the first 
summons of their attention. 

Indeed, under the regal government, how was it possi 
ble to expect success in any thing liberal. The Crown 
had directly or indirectly the appointment of all officers 
of consequence, even those chiefly of the ordinary Legis 
lature. The King s Council, as they were called, who 
acted as an Upper House, held their places at the Royal 
will, and cherished a most humble obedience to that will ; 
the Governor too, who had a negative on the laws, held 
by the same tenure, and with still greater devotedriess to 
it : and last of all, the royal negative, which formed the 
rear-guard to the whole, barred the final pass to every 
project of melioration. So wanton, indeed, was the ex 
ercise of this power in the hands of his Majesty, that for 
the most trifling reason, and sometimes for no conceiva 
ble reason at all, he refused his assent to laws of the 


most salutary tendency. Nay, the single interposition 
of an interested individual against a law, was scarcely 
ever known to fail of success, though in the opposite 
scale were placed the interests of a whole country. 

This was Mr Jefferson s first measure of reform ; and 
although rendered abortive, it was but the beginning of 
a long series of efforts, partly successful, in the same 
benevolent cause. It was the first public movement 
which he had the honor to originate, and the one, 
probably, whose spirit and object were most congenial 
to his heart. A few years after his legislative debut in 
the cause of slavery, we find him dilating with enthusiasm 
upon the same subject, in flying Notes to M. de Mar- 
bois of the French legation, and recording that vehe 
ment and appalling admonition which recent events have 
almost ripened into prophecy : 

* Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when 
we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in 
the minds of the people, that these liberties are of the 
gift of God 1 That they are not to be violated but with 
his wrath ? Indeed, I tremble for my country, when I 
reflect that God is just ; that his justice cannot sleep 
forever : that considering numbers, nature and natural 
means only, a revolution in the wheel of fortune, an ex 
change of situation is among possible events ; that it 
may become probable by supernatural interference ! 
The Almighty has no attribute which can take side with 
us in such a contest. 

The business of ordinary legislation was drawing to a 
close in Virginia, The collision between Great Britain 
and her colonies, had arrived at a crisis which suspend 
ed the regular action of government, and summoned 
the attention of its functionaries to more imperious con 
cerns. Patrick Henry, who was seven years older than 
Mr Jefferson, and three or four ahead of him in public 
life, had hitherto been the master-spirit of the Revolu 
tion at the South ; and had sustained its principal brunt 
by his superior firmness. The time had how arrived, 


when he was to divide the burthen and the glory of the 
distinction, with one who was his junior only in years 
and eloquence, his equal in moral courage, but in every 
thing else his superior. The session of the Legislature 
that first saw Mr Jefferson a member, saw him first also 
in the little council of the brave. The same session 
(1769) carried Virginia into a new mode of resistance 
to British tyranny, which he was chiefly instrumental 
in establishing to wit, the system of non-intercourse, 
by which the colonies gradually dissolved all commercial 
connection with the mother country. 

The unequivocal attitude into which Virginia had 
thrown herself, by the opposition to the Stamp Act, 
which she headed in 65, was imitated with rapidity by 
all the other colonies ; which raised the general tone 
of resentment to such a height, as made Great Britain 
herself quail before the tempest she had excited. The 
Stamp Act was repealed ; but its repeal was soon fol 
lowed by a series of parliamentary and executive acts, 
equally unconstitutional and oppressive. Among these, 
were the declaratory act of a right in the British Par 
liament to tax the colonies in all cases ; the quartering 
of large bodies of British soldiery in the principal towns 
of the colonies, at the expense and to the annoyance of 
the inhabitants ; the dissolution, in rapid succession, of 
the Colonial Assemblies, and the total suspension of the 
legislative power in New York ; the imposition of du 
ties on all teas, glass, paper, and other of the most ne 
cessary articles imported into the colonies, and the ap 
pointment of commissioners, armed with excessive pow 
ers, to be stationed in the several ports for the purpose 
of exacting the arbitrary customs. These measures, 
with others of a similar character provoked immediate 
retaliation in the commercial Provinces. The people 
of Massachusetts, upon whom they fell with their first 
and heaviest pressure, were the foremost in resisting 
their operation. They entered into an association, by 


which they agreed and bound themselves, not to im 
port from Great Britain any of the articles taxed, 
or to use them. They also addressed a circular letter 
to their sister colonies, inviting their concurrence and 
co-operation in all lawful and constitutional means for 
procuring relief. Petitions, memorials, and remon 
strances were accordingly addressed to the King and 
Parliament by the Legislatures of the different colonies, 
entreating a revision of the obnoxious measures, and 
blending with their entreaties professions of unwavering 
loyalty. To these no answer was ever vouchsafed. Yet 
the non-intercourse proceedings in Massachusetts were 
of a character too ruinous to the new revenue bill, not 
to excite the attention of the British Court. They im 
mediately called forth a set of joint resolutions, and an 
address from the Lords and Commons. These resolu 
tions condemned in the severest terms, all the measures 
adopted by the colonies. They re-asserted the right of 
taxation, and of quartering their troops upon the colo 
nies. They even went so far as to direct that the King 
might employ force of arms sufficient to quell the dis 
obedient ; and declared that he had the right to cause 
the promoters of disorders to be arrested and transport 
ed to England for trial. 

These resolutions of the Lords and Commons arrived 
in America in May, 1769. The House of Burgesses of 
Virginia was then in session, and Mr Jefferson, as we 
have seen, was for the first time a member. These 
menacing papers were principally directed against the 
people of Massachusetts ; but the doctrines avowed in 
them were too extraordinary to be overlooked in any 
assembly which contained a Jefferson. They were no 
sooner made known to the House, than he proposed the 
adoption of counter resolutions, and warmly advocated 
the propriety of making common cause with Massachu 
setts, at every hazard. Counter resolutions and an ad 
dress to the King were accordingly agreed to, with little 


opposition ; and the determination was then and there 
formed, of considering the cause of any one colony as a 
common one. 

The seed of the American Union was here first sown. 
By the resolutions which they passed, the Legislature 
re-asserted the exclusive right of the colonies to tax 
themselves in all cases whatsoever ; denounced the re 
cent acts of Parliament, as flagrant violations of the 
British Constitution ; and sternly remonstrated against 
the assumed right to transport the freeborn citizens of 
America to England, to be tried by their enemies. The 
tone of these resolutions was so strong as to excite, for 
the first time, the displeasure of the Governor, the 
amiable Lord Bottetourt. The House had scarcely 
adopted and ordered them to be entered upon their 
journals, when they were summoned to his presence, to 
receive the sentence of dissolution. 4 Mr Speaker, said 
he, and gentlemen of the House of Representatives, I 
have heard of your resolves, and augur ill of their ef 
fects ; you have made it my duty to dissolve you, and 
,you are accordingly dissolved. 

: But the interference of the Executive had no effect 
but to encourage the holy feeling it attempted to repress. 
The next day, led on by Jefferson, Henry, and the 
two Lees, the great body of the members retired to a 
room, called the Apollo, in the Raleigh tavern, the prin 
cipal hotel in Williamsburg. They there formed them 
selves into a voluntary convention, drew up articles of 
association against the use of any merchandise imported 
from Great Britain, signed, and recommended them to 
the people. They repaired to their several counties, 
circulated the articles of the league among their con 
stituents, and to the astonishment of all, so popular was 
the measure that at the call of another Legislature they 
were themselves re-elected without an exception. 

The impetus thus given to the heroic example of Mas 
sachusetts by a remote Province, carried it home to the 


bosom of every colony. The non-importation agree 
ment became general. All the luxuries, and many of 
the comforts of life were sacrificed at once on the altar 
of colonial liberty. Associations were formed at every 
point, and a systematic war of interdiction and non- 
consumption, was directed against British merchandise. 
All ranks, all ages, and both sexes joined in nullifying 
the unconstitutional tariff. The ladies established a 
peculiar claim to pre-eminence on this occasion. They 
relinquished, Avithout a struggle, all the elegancies, the 
embellishments, and even the comforts to which they 
had been accustomed, preferring for their attire, the 
fabric of their own hands, to the most gorgeous habili 
ments of tyranny. In Virginia, the anti-revenue move 
ment was reduced to a system, and pursued with un 
paralleled rigor. A. committee of vigilance was estab 
lished in every county, whose duty it was to promote 
subscriptions to the covenant, and to guard the execu 
tion of the articles. The powers of these committees 
being undefined, were almost unlimited. They exam 
ined the books of the merchant, and pushed their in 
quisitorial search into the sanctity of the fire-side, pun 
ishing every breach by fine and public advertisement of 
the offender, and rewarding every observance by an ap 
propriate badge of merit. Such too, was the virtue of 
popular opinion, that from their decision there was no 
appeal. All who refused to subscribe the covenant of 
self-disfranchisement, or proved unfaithful to its obliga 
tions, underwent a species of social excommunication. 
But the examples of delinquency were exceedingly rare 
of apostacy rarer ; a few old tories only, of the most 
intractable stamp were sent into gentlemanly exile be 
yond the mountains. 

The dissolution of the House of Burgesses was not 
attended with any change in the popular representation ; 
except in the very few instances of those who had with 
held their assent from the patriotic proceedings. The 


next meeting of the Legislature of any permanent in 
terest, which was not until the spring of 1773, saw Mr 
Jefferson again at his post, intent upon the business of 
substituting just principles of government for those which 

A court of inquiry, held in Rhode-Island as far back 
as 1762, in which was vested the extraordinary power to 
transport persons to England, to be tried for offences 
committed in America, was considered by him as de 
manding attention, even after so long an interval of 
silence. He was not in public life at the time this pro 
ceeding was instituted, and consequently had not the 
power to raise his voice against it ; but when an im 
portant principle was violated, he deemed it never too 
late to rally. Acquiescence in such an encroachment, 
would give it the force of precedent, and precedent 
would soon establish the right. An investigation and 
protest, too, would rouse the apprehensions of the colo 
nists, which had already relapsed into repose. This ap 
peared to him a more desirable result, than the simple 
assertion of right in that particular case. No unusual 
excitement having occurred, during the protracted in 
terval of legislative interruption, the people had fallen 
into a state of insensibility : and yet, the same causes of 
irritation existed, that had recently thrown them into 
such ferment. The duty on tea, with a multitude of 
co-existing-incumbrances, still pressed upon them ; and 
the Declaratory Act of a right in the British Parliament 
to bind them by their laws in all cases, was still sus 
pended over them, hanging by the thread of ministerial 
caprice. The lethargy of the public mind, under such 
injustice, indicated to Mr Jefferson a fearful state of 
things. It presented to his eye, a degree of moral 
prostration, but one remove from that which constitutes 
the proper element for despotism, and invites its visita 
tions. It appeared to him indispensable that something 
should be done to break the dead calm which rested 


on the colonies, and to rouse the people to a sense of 
their situation. Something, moreover, had been want 
ing to produce concert of action, and a mutual un 
derstanding among the colonies. 

These objects could only be accomplished, he thought, 
by the rapid dissemination of the earliest] intelligence 
of events, with proper comments. This would keep 
the excitement alive, and spread discontents, many of 
which were local, from colony to colony. With a 
view, therefore, to these important objects, and not 
thinking the old and leading members had gained the 
requisite point of forwardness, he proposed to a few 
of the younger ones, a private meeting in the evening, 
to consult on the state of things. On the evening 
of the eleventh of March, 1773, we find this little band 
of Virginia patriots, Jefferson, Henry, R. H. Lee, F. L. 
Lee, and Dabney Carr, assembled in a private room of 
the Raleigh tavern, to deliberate on the concerns of all 
British America. This conclave, at the Raleigh tavern 
in Williamsburg, had the merit of erecting the most 
formidable engine of colonial resistance, that had been 
devised the Committees of Correspondence between 
the Legislatures of the different colonies : and the first 
offspring of this measure was a movement of incon 
ceivable consequence, not only to America, but to the 
world the call of a General Congress of all the colo 

This result was foreseen, it appears, by the meeting, 
particularly by Mr Jefferson, who has left us an interest 
ing reminiscence of their doings, avoiding as usual any 
particular notice of his own agency. 

We were all sensible that the most urgent of all 
measures, was that of coming to an understanding with 
all the other colonies, to consider the British claims as 
a common cause to all, and to produce a unity of action ; 
and for this purpose that a Committee of Correspond 
ence, in each colony, would be the best instrument for 


inter-communication : and that their first measure would 
probably be, to propose a meeting of Deputies from every 
colony, at some central place, who should be charged 
with the direction of the measures which should be taken 
by all. 

This presentiment of the call of a General Congress, 
as the result of their meeting, must have made a power 
ful impression upon the mind of Mr Jefferson ; for at 
the age of seventy-three it was still fresh in his memory. 
In a letter to a son of Dabney Carr, in 1816, he alludes 
to it : I remember that Mr Carr and myself, returning 
home together, and conversing on the subject, by the 
way, concurred in the conclusion, that that measure 
[Committees of Correspondence] must inevitably beget 
the meeting of a Congress of Deputies from all the 
colonies, for the purpose of uniting all in the same 
principles and measures, for the maintenance of our 

It being decided to recommend the appointment of 
these committees, Mr Jefferson proceeded to draft reso 
lutions to that effect, and improved the opportunity to 
insert a special one, directing an inquiry into the judi 
cial proceedings in Rhode-Island. The resolutions be 
ing approved, it was decided to propose them to the 
House of Burgesses, the next morning. His colleagues 
in council, pressed Mr Jefferson to move them ; but I 
urged, says he, that it should be done by Mr Carr, my 
friend and brother-in-law, then a new member, to whom 
I wished an opportunity should be given, of making 
known to the House his great worth and talents. It 
was accordingly agreed that Mr Carr should move them ; 
after which, this coterie dissolved. 

The resolutions were brought forward in the House 
of Burgesses, the next morning, by young Mr Carr ; 
who failed not to exhibit on the occasion, his great 
worth and talents, in a speech which electrified the as 
sembly. Mr Carr was a member from the county of 


Louisa. He was hailed as a powerful acquisition to the 
reform party. The members flocked around him, greeted 
him with praises which spoke fervently in their coun 
tenances, and congratulated themselves on the accession 
of such a champion to their cause. But soon were 
these proud anticipations blighted. Brief was the career 
of the eloquent and lamented Carr. In two months 
from the occasion which witnessed this, his first and 
last triumph, he was no more. 

Nearly half a century afterwards, Mr Jefferson reverts 
to the transaction in a letter to a friend, with a fresh- 
ness which shows a heart yet warm with the feeling it 

I well remember the pleasure expressed in the coun 
tenance and conversation of the members generally, on 
this debut of Mr Carr, and the hopes they conceived, 
as well from the talents as the patriotism it manifested. 
But he died within two months after, and in hirn we lost 
a powerful fellow laborer. His character was of a high 
order. A spotless integrity, sound judgment, and fine 
imagination, enriched by education and reading, quick 
and clear in his conceptions, of correct and ready elo 
cution, impressing every hearer with the sincerity of the 
heart from which it flowed. His firmness was inflexible 
in whatever he thought was right : but when no moral 
principle stood in the way, never had man more of the 
rnilk of human kindness, of indulgence, of softness, of 
pleasantry in conversation and conduct. The number 
of his friends, and the warmth of their affection, were 
proofs of his worth, and of their estimate of it. To 
give to those now living, an idea of the affliction pro 
duced by his death, in the minds of all who knew him, 
I liken it to that lately felt by themselves, on the death 
of his eldest son, Peter Carr, so like him in all his en 
dowments and moral qualities, and whose recollection 
can never recur without a deep-drawn sigh from the 
bosom of any one who knew him. 

The resolutions were adopted the same day, March 
12, 1773, without a dissenting voice. They had been 


drafted so dexterously, and in such guarded terms, as 
not to awaken a suspicion against them in the old and 
cautious members. 

But the House of Burgesses had no sooner placed 
them upon record, than they were dissolved, as usual, 
by the Governor, then Lord Dunmore. For although 
clothed in the most plausible and inoffensive language, 
that watchful Executive had too much sagacity not to per 
ceive, that they gave occasion for a more formidable re 
sistance than had yet been apprehended. 

But the sentence of dissolution had no effect but to 
give a popular impulse to the proceedings that led to it ; 
and to excite those who were designated in the resolu 
tions for putting the machine into operation to greater 
zeal and promptitude. The very next day, the Commit 
tee of Correspondence assembled, organized themselves, 
and proceeded to business. They adopted a circular 
letter, prepared by Mr Jefferson, to the Speakers of the 
other Colonies, enclosing to each a copy of the resolu 
tions ; and left it in charge with their chairman, Peyton 
Randolph, to transmit them by expresses. The chief mo 
ver thus had the happiness to see his favorite measure in 
course of execution. 

Although the result of the Raleigh consultation had a 
more decisive bearing upon the subsequent movements 
of the country, than any recommendation that had pre 
ceded it, we find no mention of the occurrence in any of 
the numerous histories of our revolution. But the histo 
ry of the American Revolution has not been written, so 
said John Adams in 1815, in a letter to Mr Jefferson ; 
the latter echoes the sentiment of his correspondent, and 
declares it never can be written. * On the subject, says 
he, of the history of the American Revolution, you ask, 
who shall write it ? Who can write it ? And who will 
ever be able to write it ? Nobody ; except merely its ex 
ternal facts ; all its councils, designs, and discussions 
were conducted in secret, and no traces of them were 


preserved. These, which are the life and soul of histo 
ry, must forever be unknown. 

The recommendation of the Virginia Legislature was 
answered with alacrity by the sister Colonies, and simi 
lar Committees of Correspondence were appointed by 
them all. By this means, a channel of direct communi 
cation was established between the various provinces ; 
which, by the interchange of opinions and alarms, main 
tained a steady equalization of purpose and action 
throughout the Colonies, and consolidated the phalanx 
which breasted the power of Britain. The operations 
of this great institution were incalculably beneficial to 
the American cause. Its precise influence upon the 
course and management of the Revolution has never 
been critically ascertained. Its mighty cabinet has 
never been broken open, yet it is supposed, that the 
publication of its voluminous correspondence would ex 
hibit some of the most interesting productions of Mr 
Jefferson s pen, as he bore an active agency in its opera 
tions ; and it is generally believed that the revelation of 
its transactions and counsels, would develope to the 
world the secret causes of many movements, the 
knowledge of which would reflect accumulated glory on 
the chiefs of that age. 

As was predicted by Mr Jefferson and his confede 
rates, the establishment of Corresponding Committees 
resulted in the convocation of a general Congress ; 
which event followed the ensuing year. The intermedi 
ate steps to that result, require a summary notice, to 
show the connection of the prophecy with its fulfilment. 

The resistance to the revenue impositions had been 
conducted with such inflexibility and general concert, as 
to have checked the regular current of importation into 
the Colonies, and occasioned a prodigious surcharge of 
the dutied commodities in England. Immense quanti 
ties of tea, in particular, had accumulated in the ware 
houses of the East India Company a monopoly, which 


was much favored by the government, and had an ex 
tensive influence over it. This company having obtain 
ed permission to transport their tea, free of the usual 
export duty, from Great Britain to America, on condi 
tion that upon its introduction there, the duty of three 
pence per pound should be paid, immediately dispatched 
enormous shipments to Boston and other American 
ports. On the arrival of the tea in Boston, the patri 
ots were thrown into a frenzy of indignation and alarm. 
They saw and felt that the crisis now approached which 
was to decide the great question, whether they would 
submit to taxation without representation, or brave the 
consequences of some decisive movement, which might 
be adequate to relieve them from the emergency. If 
the tea was permitted to be landed, it would be sold, 
the duties paid, and all they had gained be lost. They 
resolved, therefore, that it should not be landed ; and 
the resolution was no sooner formed, than executed, by 
the destruction of the entire cargo. 

The intelligence of this spirited stroke in vindication 
of popular rights so exasperated the British ministry, 
that they resorted to a measure which fixed the irrevoca 
ble sentence of dismemberment upon the British empire. 
This was the famous Boston Port Bill, by which the har 
bor of that great city was closed against the importation 
of any goods, wares or merchandise whatsoever, from 
and afte-r the first day of June, 1774. 

When the rumor of the impending calamity reach 
ed Boston, a meeting of the inhabitants was called ; 
the act was denounced as cruel and flagitious ; they 
made their appeal to God and the world. Numerous 
copies of the act were printed and dispersed over the 
colonies ; and to make a deeper impression on the mul 
titude, the copies were printed on mourning paper, bor 
dered with black lines ; and they were cried through the 
country as the barbarous, cruel, sanguinary and inhuman 
murder. , * 

* Botta, vol. I, p. 120. 


The Legislature of Virginia was in session when the 
news of this interdict was received, to wit, in May, 1774. 
Mr Jefferson was still a member, and his sympathies for 
the north, rose to a point before unequalled. Perceiving 
the advantages to be derived from the popular excitement, 
which he foresaw would be created, he as quickly de 
vised the means for using it with effect for the benefit 
of the common cause. Fearful to trust the cause, at this 
propitious moment, to the tardy pace of the old mem 
bers, he again rallied the little council of chiefs with 
whom he had confederated on the former occasion, and 
concerted a private meeting, the same evening, at the 
council chamber of the library, to consult on the 
proper measures to be taken. Punctual at the hour, 
they met ; and mutually ripe in sentiment, unanimously 
agreed that they must boldly take an unequivocal stand 
in the line with Massachusetts. They were also im 
pressed with the necessity of arousing the people from 
the apathy into which they had fallen, as to passing 
events ; and for this purpose, Mr Jefferson proposed 
the appointment of a day of general fasting and prayer 
throughout the colony, as most likely to call up and 
alarm their attention. The proposition met enthusiastic 
acceptance with his colleagues ; and he was requested 
to prepare the necessary instrument, to be presented to 
the House. 

* No example, says Mr Jefferson, of such a solem 
nity had existed since the days of our distress in the 
war of 55, since which a new generation had grown 
up. With the help, therefore, of Rushworth, whom we 
rummaged over for the revolutionary precedents and 
forms of the Puritans of that day, preserved by him, 
we cooked up a resolution, somewhat modernizing their 
phrases, for appointing the Jirst day of June, on which 
the Port Bill was to commence, for a day of fasting, 
humiliation and prayer, to implore Heaven to avert 
from us the evils of civil war, to inspire us with firmness 


in support of our rights, and to turn the hearts of the 
King and Parliament to moderation and justice. The 
draft was approved by the consulting members ; but be 
fore they separated, another important figure was ne 
cessary to be arranged ; and the manner in which it 
was done showed the wisdom and sagacity of the con 
clave. * To give greater emphasis to our proposition, 
continues Mr Jefferson, we agreed to wait, the next 
morning, on Mr JVieholas, whose grave and religious 
character was more in unison with the tone of our reso 
lution, and to solicit him to move it.* They accordingly 
went to Mr Nicholas the next morning. He moved it 
the same day, May 24th ; and it passed without oppo 

The instrument was drawn up much like the New 
England proclamations of the present day, with great 
solemnity of phraseology, directing the members, pre 
ceded by the Speaker and mace, to assemble on the ap 
pointed day, devoutly to implore the Divine interposi 
tion for averting the heavy calamity which threatens 
destruction to our civil rights, and the evils of civil war ; 
to give us one heart and one mind, firmly to oppose, by 
all just and proper means, every injury to American 
rights ; and that the minds of His Majesty and parlia 
ment may be inspired from above with wisdom, modera 
tion, and justice, to remove from the loyal people of 
America, all cause of alarm from a continued pursuit 
of measures pregnant with their ruin. 

The solemn example of Virginia was the signal for a 
general movement among the colonies. The same reli 
gious observance was ordered to be kept on the same 
day, in all the principal towns ; and the first day of 
June was a day of mourning throughout the continent. 
Business was suspended ; the bells sounded a funeral 
knell ; the pulpits reverberated with inflammatory dis 
courses ; and every engine of popular terror was put in 
use. In Virginia, the heavens were shrouded with 


gloom ; the ministers of religion, arrayed in their long 
black robes, headed processions of the people, and 
alarmed them from the pulpit with terrific appeals to 
their passions ; popular orators pronounced their in 
flammatory harangues ; the committees of vigilance cir 
culated the infection through every village ; and all co 
operated with prodigious effect in promoting the general 
conflagration. The people, says Mr Jefferson, met 
generally, with anxiety and alarm in their countenances, 
and the effect of the day, through the whole colony, was 
like a shock of electricity, arousing every man, and 
placing him erect and solidly on his centre. 

The most important transaction of this eventful ses 
sion remains to be considered. The chain of causes 
were now bringing about the grand result, so confi 
dently predicted by Mr Jefferson. It would hardly seem 
credible at the present day, that a resolution for the 
appointment of a religious ceremony, conceived in such 
terms of mingled devotion and loyalty as was that of 
the House of Burgesses, should have provoked the hos 
tile interposition of the Executive power : but so it was. 
The order of the House for a general fast had no sooner 
fallen under the eye of Lord Dunmore, than he made 
his appearance before them with the following speech : 
4 Mr Speaker and gentlemen of the House of Burgesses : 
I have in my hand a paper published by order of your 
House, conceived in such terms as reflect highly upon 
His Majesty and the parliament of Great Britain, which 
makes it necessary to dissolve you, and you are dissol 
ved accordingly. 

But the powers of the government had become com 
pletely paralyzed in that contumacious colony ; and its 
Executive decrees were regarded as idle ceremonies. 
The whole body of the members repaired in a mass to 
the Apollo. They immediately organized themselves 
into an independent Convention, agreed to an associa 
tion more solemnly than ever against the calamitous 


revenue system ; declared that an attack on any one 
colony to compel submission to arbitrary taxes, should 
be considered as an attack on all British America ; and 
instructed their committee of correspondence to propose 
to the corresponding committees of the other colonies, 
the expediency of appointing Deputies to meet in Congress 
annually, at such place as should be convenient, to di 
rect from time to time the measures required by the 
general interest. 

That no time might be lost in carrying their recom 
mendation of a Congress into effect, they did not leave 
their seats without first having arranged the preliminary 
meeting for the choice of their own deputies. They 
passed a resolution soliciting the people of the several 
counties to elect representatives to meet at Williams- 
burg, the 1st of August ensuing, to take into further con 
sideration the state of the colony ; and particularly to 
appoint delegates to the General Congress, should that 
measure be acceded to by the corresponding committees 
of the other colonies. The meeting then dissolved ; 
and the members were universally greeted with the ap 
plause of their countrymen. 



FROM this period, 1774, the royal government might 
be considered at an end in Virginia. The self-constitu 
ted convention, which was erected upon the ruins of 
the regal Legislature, immediately succeeded by a bold 
usurpation to all its functions, and took the reins of the 
government into their own hands. . 

Agreeably to their instructions, the committee of cor 
respondence lost no time in proposing to the commit 
tees of the other provinces, the expediency of uniting 
in the plan of a general congress. They met the day 
after the adjournment of the convention, Mr Jefferson 
in the chair ; prepared letters according to their in 
structions ; and dispatched them by messengers express 
to their several destinations. The proposition was 
unanimously embraced ; by Massachusetts first, whose 
Legislature was in session when it was received ; and 
by all the other provinces, in quick succession, as their 
respective Legislatures or conventions assembled. Dele 
gates were universally chosen no province sending less 
than two nor more than seven. Philadelphia was de 
signated as the place, and the 5th of September ensuing, 
as the time of meeting. 

Agreeably to the further recommendation of the meet 
ing at the Apollo, the people of the several counties of 
Virginia elected delegates to the preliminary conven 
tion at Williamsburg. Mr Jefferson was chosen to 
represent the county in which he resided. On the first 
of August, 74, this formidable body, being the first de- 


mocratic convention of Virginia, assembled at Williams- 
burg, and was organized for business. 

Mr Jefferson, before leaving home, bad prepared a 
code of instructions to the delegates who should be 
chosen to Congress, which he meant to propose for the 
adoption of the meeting. Speaking of these instruc 
tions, the author says, * they were drawn in haste, with 
a number of blanks, with some uncertainties, and inac 
curacies of historical facts, which I neglected at the 
moment, knowing they could be readily corrected at the 

It is generally admitted that this production ranks 
second only to the Declaration of Independence, of 
which it was indeed the genuine precursor, for boldness 
and originality of sentiment, and felicity of composition. 
He set out for Williamsburg, some days before that ap 
pointed for the meeting of the Convention, but was ar 
rested on his journey by sickness, which prevented his 
attendance in person. His spirit, however, was there ; 
and so anxious was he to discharge, in some way, the 
duties of his appointment, that he forwarded by express 
duplicate copies of his draught; one under cover to Pat 
rick Henry, the other to Peyton Randolph. His own 
account of the reception of his draught is too interesting 
to be omitted. 

Whether Mr Henry disapproved the ground taken, or 
was too lazy to read it, for he was the laziest man in 
reading I ever knew, I never learned : but he commu 
nicated it to nobody. He probably thought it too bold, 
as a first measure, as the majority of the members did. 
On the other copy being laid upon the table of the Con 
vention, by Peyton Randolph, as the proposition of a 
member who was prevented from attendance, by sickness 
on the road, tamer sentiments were preferred, and, I be 
lieve, wisely preferred ; the leap I proposed being too 
long, as yet, for the mass of our citizens. The distance 
between these, and the instructions actually adopted, is 
of some curiosity, however, as it shows the inequality of 


pace with which we moved, and the prudence required 
to keep front and rear together. 

The paper was read, nevertheless, with great avidity 
by the members ; and although they considered it < a leap 
too long for the existing state of things, they were so 
impressed with its expositions of the rights and v/rongs 
of the Colonies, that they caused it to be published in a 
pamphlet form, under the title of A Summary View of 
the Rights of British America. A copy of the work 
having found its way to England, was taken up by the 
whigs in Parliament, interpolated in some places by the 
celebrated Burke, to adapt it to opposition purposes there, 
and in that form ran rapidly through several editions. 
Such doctrines as were advanced in this pamphlet, had 
never before been heard in England, nor even ventured 
in America ; and they drew upon the author the hottest 
vials of ministerial wrath. The name of Jefferson was 
forthwith enrolled in a Bill of Attainder for treason, in 
company with those of about twenty other American cit 
izens, who were considered the principal agitators in 
the Colonies. The Attainder however although actually 
commenced in Parliament, never came to maturity, but 
was suppressed in embryo by the hasty step of events, 
which warned them to be a little cautious. 

This ancient paper is highly valuable as containing 
the first disclosure, in a clear and authentic form, of the 
state of Mr Jefferson s mind on the subject of those great 
questions which were the bases of the American Revolu 
tion ; and as exhibiting in the discussions which it gave 
rise to, and in the circumstances attending its rejection 
by the Convention, the inequality of pace with which 
the leaders in the American councils travelled onward to 
the same result. It will not be thought invidious at the 
present day, to compare the birth and trace the relative 
progress of their opinions on those truths the practical 
application of which, in a rational and peaceable way, 


has already regenerated the political condition of half 
the world. 

It appears that in the most essential principles involved 
in the emancipation of the American Colonies from Great 
Britain those principles which settled the question 
upon its right basis and determined the final issue Mr 
Jefferson was for a long time ahead of his cotemporaries. 
The great point at which the other leaders of that hazar 
dous enterprize, with a single exception,* halted, as the 
utmost extremity of colonial right, he only called the 
* half way house. A brief memorandum which he him 
self has left of that period, explains the ground which he 
occupied, and the precise distance between him and his 
compatriots. Speaking of his draft of instructions, he 

In this I took the ground that, from the beginning, I 
had thought the only one orthodox or tenable, which was, 
that the relation between Great Britain and these Colo 
nies, was exactly the same, as that of England and Scot 
land, after the accession of James and until the union; 
and the same as her present relations with Hanover, hav 
ing the same executive chief, but no other necessary po 
litical connection ; arid that our emigration from England 
to this country, gave her no more rights over us, than 
the emigrations of the Danes and Saxons gave to the 
present authorities of the mother country, over England. 
In this doctrine, however, I had never been able to get 
any one to agree with me but Mr Wythe. He concurred 
in it from the first dawn of the question What was the 
political relation between us and England 1 Our other 
patriots, Randolph, the Lees, Nicholas, Pendleton, stop 
ped at the half-way house of John Dickinson, who ad 
mitted that England had a right to regulate our com 
merce, and to lay duties on it for the purposes of regula 
tion, but not of raising revenue. But for this ground 
there was no foundation in compact, in any acknowledged 
principles of colonization, nor in reason expatriation 

* Mr Wythe. 


being a natural right, and acted on as such, by all nations, 
in all ages. 

Again, in a letter to John Saunderson, in 1820, he 
says : 

* On the first dawn of the Revolution, instead of hig 
gling on half-way principles, as others did, who feared to 
follow their reason, he [Wythe] took his stand on the 
solid ground, that the only link of political union between 
us and Great Britain, was the identity of our executive ; 
that that nation, and its Parliament, had no more author 
ity over us, than we had over them ; and that we were 
co-ordinate nations with Great Britain and Hanover. 

This point is farther illustrated in the Bill of Attainder, 
before mentioned. After reciting a list of proscriptions, 
among which were Hancock and the Adamses, as noto 
rious leaders of the opposition in Massachusetts, Patrick 
Henry, as the same in Virginia, Peyton Randolph, as Pre 
sident of the General Congress in Philadelphia, the Bill 
adds, and Thomas Jefferson, as author of a proposition 
to the Convention of Virginia, for an address to the King, 
in which was maintained, that there was in right, no link 
of union between England and the Colonies, but that of the 
same King ; and that neither the Parliament, nor any other 
functionary of that government, had any more right to ex 
ercise authority over the Colonies, than over the electorate 
of Hanover ; yet expressing, in conclusion, an acquiescence 
in reasonable restrictions of commerce for the benefit of 
Great Britain, a conviction of the mutual advantages of 
union, and a disavowal of the wish for separation. * 

It appears, therefore, that the final and only tenable 
ground of answer to the great question which formed the 
hinge of the American Revolution, the right of taxation 
without representation, originated with Mr Jefferson. 
Following out the right of expatriation into all its con 
sequences, he advanced at once to the necessary con- 

* Girardin s History of Virginia, Appendix, No. 12, note. 


elusion, that there was no political connection what 
ever between the Parliament of Great Britain and the 
Colonies ; and consequently, that it had no right to tax 
them in any case not even for the regulation of com 
merce. The other patriots, either not admitting the right 
of expatriation, or what is most likely, not having pursued 
it to its legitimate results, conceded the authority of 
Parliament over the Colonies for the purposes of com 
mercial regulation, though not of raising revenue. But 
this was going no farther than did Burke, Chatham, 
Wilkes, Fox, and the opposition members generally of 
the House of Commons ; and it is not improbable that, 
had the question been restrained to that issue, it would 
have terminated in mutual reconciliation upon that basis. 
But happily it was not so restrained, and quite a different 
conclusion was the result. It is no small evidence of 
originality, that one of the youngest of the American 
counsellors, and a youth compared to most of them, should 
have been the first to plant himself upon the farthest 
verge of colonial right, short of absolute independence. 

Upon a critical examination of this paper, which is in 
serted at length in the first volume of Jefferson s Works, 
it will appear that the author s mind had already attain 
ed those fundamental discoveries in Political Science, 
which have since received such an astonishing exempli 
fication before the world. It is a more learned and 
elaborate production than the Declaration of Independ 
ence, to which it is inferior as a literary performance ; 
but in power and sublimity of conception, scarcely 
exceeded by the * Declaratory Charter of our rights 
and of the rights of man. 

The author begins with the vindication of the first 
principle of all political truth, the sovereignty of the peo- 
ple, as a right which they derive frdnr-rod, and not from 
His Majesty ; who, he affirms, 4 is no more than the 
chief officer of the people, appointed by the laws, and 
invested with definite powers, to assist in working the 


great machine of government, erected for their use, and 
consequently subject to their superintendence. He next 
proceeds to vindicate the right of expatriation, showing 
that the barbarian nations in the North of Europe, from 
whom the inhabitants of Great Britain descended, would 
have as good right to usurp jurisdiction over them, as 
they over us ; and from this right, the basis of every oth 
er, he deduces the broad principle, that the American 
States were co-ordinate nations with Great Britain her 
self, having a common executive head, but no other link 
of political union. The doctors of nullification would 
here find a triumphant justification of their theory, 
should it be made to appear, that the States possess the 
same relation to the federal, that they then did to the 
mother government ! He refutes, with becoming satire, 
the fictitious principle of the common law, that all lands 
belong mediately or immediately to the Crown, and says, 
it is high time to declare, that His Majesty has no right 
to grant lands of himself. Finally, he recommends His 
Majesty to open his breast to liberal and expanded 
thought, adding that the great principles of right and 
wrong are legible to every reader, and that the whole 
art of government consists in the art of being honest. 1 

In conformity to this ground, the word States is for 
the first time substituted for that of Colonies. This 
will not be thought a small circumstance when it is 
known, that in the debates upon the Declaration of In 
dependence even, the term States was made a topic of 
repeated cavil, and in several instances expunged. The 
Convention at Williamsburg were not prepared to sanction 
the principles contained in these instructions. Tamer 
sentiments were substituted; the congressional delegates* 

* The Delegates to the first Congress, on the part of Virginia, 
were Peyton Randolph, Richard H. Lee, George Washington, Pat 
rick Henry, Richard Bland, Benjamin Harrison, and Edmund Pen- 


were appointed, to the number of seven ; and resolutions 
were adopted, in which they pledged themselves to make 
common cause with the people of Boston, in every ex 
tremity. They broke off all commercial connection with 
the mother country, until the grievances of which they 
complained, should be redressed ; and empowered their 
chairman, Peyton Randolph, or in case of his death, 
Robert C. Nicholas, on any future occasion that might 
in his opinion require it, to convene the several delegates 
of the colony, at such time and place as he might judge 
proper. This last resolve was more important than all 
the others, as it showed their determination to keep the 
government in their own hands, to the exclusion of the 
parent authorities, and was a virtual assumption of inde 
pendence in Virginia. 

The General Congress assembled at Carpenter s Hall, 
in Philadelphia, September 5th, 74 ; and organized for 
business, by choosing Peyton Randolph of Virginia, 
President, and Charles Thompson of Pennsylvania, Se 
cretary. Delegates attended from every province, ex 
cept Georgia, and were in number fifty-five. They ter 
minated their first session on the 26th of October, to 
meet again at the same place on the 10th of May ensu 
ing, at which time Mr Jefferson became a Deputy elect. 

On the 20th of March, 1775, the popular Convention 
of Virginia assembled the second time, upon invitation of 
the Chairman, to deliberate further on the state of pub 
lic affairs, and the measures it demanded. To a politi 
cal union with Great Britain, upon the broad basis of 
reason and right, he was not averse ; nay, he most anx 
iously and fervently desired it, to avoid the horrors and 
desolations which the other alternative presented. But, 
by the God that made me,"* said he a short time afterwards, 
* / will cease to exist, before, I yield to a connection on such 
terms as the British Parliament propose. The distance 
between the terms upon which he would consent to a 
union, and the terms which Great Britain had demand- 


ed, was too great for any reasonable hope of accommo 
dation. The only grounds upon which he would submit 
to a compromise were, freedom from all jurisdiction of 
the British Parliament, and the exclusive regulation, by 
the colonies, of their own internal affairs, freedom 
from all restraints upon navigation with respect to other 
nations, freedom from all necessary accountability to 
the common law, and, in a word, freedom from all 
the laws, institutions and customs of the mother country, 
until they should have been specifically adopted as our 
laws, institutions and customs, by the positive or implied 
assent of the people. 

But would Great Britain consent to an abandonment 
of all her pretensions, and accept the proffered condi 
tions ? The idea was preposterous. So far from it, there 
was little probability she would yield to the far more 
gracious proposals of Congress. Mr Jefferson saw with 
prophetic certainty the inevitable result ; and he yearn 
ed to have the same clear, strong, yet terrible perspec 
tive burst upon the tardy vision of his countrymen. He 
had long anticipated the awful crisis, to which the cur 
rent of events was fast tending ; and we have now arriv 
ed to the epoch, when his mind was made up to meet 
that crisis, with all the firmness which its nature de 
manded. My creed, says he, had been formed on un 
sheathing the sword at Lexington. This event, it will be 
recollected, occurred the ensuing month of April. 

The Convention proceeded to business. They adopt 
ed a resolution expressive of their unqualified approba 
tion of the measures of Congress ; declaring that they 
considered * this whole continent as under the highest ob 
ligations to that respectable body, for the wisdom of their 
counsels, and their unremitted endeavors to maintain 
and preserve inviolate, the just rights and liberties of his 
Majesty s dutiful and loyal subjects in America. They 
next resolved, that the warmest thanks of the convention 
and of all the inhabitants of this colony, were due, and 


that this just tribute of applause be presented to the wor 
thy delegates deputed by a former convention to repre 
sent this colony in general congress, for their cheerful 
undertaking and faithful discharge of the very important 
trust reposed in them. 

It would be doing injustice to Mr Jefferson, to suppose 
the above resolutions came from him. Not that he dis 
approved them ; on the contrary, he regarded their 
adoption as an act of justice as well as gratitude. 
But they probably proceeded from that side of the 
House, which now, as heretofore, was content to follow; 
and whose sentiments, being more in unison with the in 
structions given to their own deputies, were likewise 
more conformable to the attitude assumed by Congress. 
For, be it understood, there was a strong inequality of 
sentiment in this, as in all former meetings ; nor was it 
long in displaying itself. Soon there arose a leader from 
the other side of the House, who responded in a note of 
thunder to the preceding resolutions, as follows : 

4 Resolved, that this colony be immediately put into a 

state of defence, and that be a committee to 

prepare a plan for embodying, arming, and disciplining, 
such a number of men, as may be sufficient for that 

The effect of this proposition was like a bolt from hea 
ven upon the members of the Convention. A deep and 
painful sensation betrayed itself portending a desperate 
resistance to the measure. Long and vehement was the 
contest that succeeded. The resolution was opposed by 
all the aged, including some of the warmest patriots of 
the Convention ; Pendleton, Harrison, Bland, Nicholas, 
and even the sanguine and republican Wythe. Alluding 
to these gentlemen and their backwardness upon this oc 
casion, Mr Jefferson writes to a friend, in 1815 : 

These were honest and able men, who had begun the 
opposition on the same grounds, but with a moderation 
more adapted to their age and experience. Subsequent 


events favored the bolder spirits of Henry, the Lees, 
Pages, Mason, &c, with whom I went in all points. 
Sensible, however, of the importance of unanimity among 
our constituents, although we often wished to have gone 
on faster, we slackened our pace, that our less ardent 
colleagues might keep up with us ; and they, on their 
part, differing nothing from us in principle, quickened 
their gait somewhat beyond that, which their prudence 
might, of itself, have advised, and thus consolidated the 
phalanx, which breasted the power of Britain. By this 
harmony of the bold with the cautious, we advanced, 
with our constituents, in undivided mass, and with fewer 
examples of separation, than perhaps existed in any other 
part of the union. 

These gentlemen were all characters of weight in the 
Colony ; insomuch that in all proceedings of a popular 
bearing it was essential to conciliate them. Their oppo 
sition therefore, at this stage of their progress, was a 
source of real anguish to the more ardent chiefs of the 
reform party. Their repugnance to the military propo 
sition was as unfeigned, as firm. They had never dream 
ed of carrying their resistance into more serious forms 
than those of petition, remonstrance and passive non- 
intercourse. With expectations yet warm and unclouded, 
of a final reconciliation with the parent government, they 
shrunk with horror, from any attitude which might en 
danger that, result. Most of them were zealous Church 
men, ardently attached to the established religion of 
Great Britain, and dreaded a disruption from her, on that 
account, as from the anchor of their salvation. They 
directed the whole weight of their influence, and exerted 
all the powers of their eloquence to defeat the measure ; 
but their resistance was overborne by the impetuosity of 
that torrent which poured from the lips of the more reso 
lute champions of freedom. 

The resolution was moved by Mr Henry, and support 
ed by him, by Mr Jefferson, and the whole of that host 
which had achieved so much in council. They put 


their united resources into action ; and bore off the palm 
against the wisdom and pertinacity of the opposing corps. 
The proposition was carried, and no sooner was the vote 
declared than the opposing members, one and all, went 
over to the majority, and lent their names to supply the 
blank in the resolution. They quickened their gait 
somewhat beyond that which their prudence had of itself 
advised, and advanced boldly to a line with their col 
leagues. Mr Jefferson was appointed on the committee 
to prepare the plan called for by the resolution. The 
committee met immediately ; and reported to the same 
Convention a plan for embodying, arming and disciplin 
ing the militia, which was likewise adopted. 

This was a revolutionary movement. In addition to 
the local advantages which it secured, it operated as a 
direct appeal to the sister Colonies, and to Congress. 
But it was even more important as recognizing a funda 
mental principle. In the preamble to the resolution, 
which bears the broad stamp of Mr Jefferson s senti 
ments, it is declared that a well-regulated militia, com 
posed of gentlemen and yeomen, is the natural strength 
and only security of a free government ; and that a 
standing army of mercenary soldiers is subversive of the 
quiet, dangerous to the liberties, and burthensome to the 
properties of the people. 

Having disposed of this subject, and transacted some 
other business of minor importance, the Convention pro 
ceeded to the election of Deputies to the ensuing Con 
gress. They re-appointed the same persons ; and fore 
seeing the probability that Peyton Randolph would be 
called off to attend a meeting of the House of Burgesses, 
they made choice of Mr Jefferson to supply the vacancy. 
Lastly, having provided for a re-election of delegates to 
the next Convention, they adjourned. 

We have now reached the precise date, May 1775, at 
which Mr Jefferson announced that creed which he 
dictated to Congress, one year after, and they so un- 


dauntedly promulgated to the world. The God who 
gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time, was first ; 
the hand of force may destroy, but cannot disjoin them,* 
was last. The * hand of force had been upraised ; the 
sword had been drawn at Lexington, and blood had been 
spilt. From that moment all hope, not to say desire, of 
a peaceable accommodation, was extinguished. 

The following letter, written at this time, exhibits the 
state of his own, and of the public mind, on the intelli 
gence of the first hostilities. It is the earliest of his 
published correspondence, and was addressed to his 
college friend, William Small. 

May 7, 1775. 

4 Dear Sir, Within this week we have received the 
unhappy news of an action of considerable magnitude, 
between the King s troops and our brethren of Boston, 
in which, it is said, five hundred of the former, with the 
Earl of Percy are slain. That such an action has oc 
curred is undoubted, though, perhaps, the circumstances 
may not have reached us with truth. This accident has 
cut off our last hope of reconciliation, and a frenzy of 
revenge seems to have seized all ranks of people. It is 
a lamentable circumstance, that the only mediatory 
power, acknowledged by both parties, instead of leading 
to a reconciliation his divided people, should pursue the 
incendiary purpose of still blowing up the flames, as we 
find him constantly doing, in every speech and public 
declaration. This may, perhaps, be intended to intimi 
date into acquiescence, but the effect has been most un 
fortunately otherwise. A little knowledge of human 
nature, and attention to its ordinary workings, might 
have foreseen that the spirits of the people here were in 
a state, in which they were more likely to be provoked, 
than frightened, by haughty deportment. And to fill up 
the measure of irritation, a proscription of individuals 
has been substituted in the room of just trial. Can it 
be believed, that a grateful people will suffer those to be 
consigned to execution, whose sole crime has been the 
developing and asserting their rights ? Had the Parlia 
ment possessed the power of reflection, they would have 


avoided a measure as impotent as it was inflammatory. 
When I saw Lord Chatham s bill, I entertained high 
hope that a reconciliation could have been brought 
about. The difference between his terms, and those 
offered by our Congress, might have been accommo 
dated, if entered on, by both parties, with a disposition 
to accommodate. But the dignity of Parliament, it 
seems, can brook no opposition to its power. Strange, 
that a set of men, who have made sale of their virtue to 
the minister, should yet talk of retaining dignity ! But 
I am getting into politics, though I sat down only to ask 
your acceptance of the wine, and express my constant 
wishes for your happiness. 

According to expectation, the General Assembly of 
Virginia was summoned by Governor Dunmore, to meet 
on the 1st day of June, 75 ; and Peyton Randolph was 
obliged to leave the chair of congress, to attend as 
speaker to that assembly. Thus was created the antici 
pated vacancy in the congressional delegation, which 
Mr Jefferson had been elected to fill. But he did not 
take his seat in that memorable body until some weeks 
after. A more imperious duty required his attention at 
home, just at that moment. 

Lord Dunmore had paraded the Legislature before 
him, declaring that His Majesty, in the plenitude of his 
royal condescension, had extended the olive branch to 
his discontented subjects in America, and opened the 
door of reconciliation upon such terms as demanded 
their grateful consideration and prompt acceptance. 
The olive branch proved to be the famous Conciliatory 
Proposition of Lord North, than which, a more insidi 
ous overture, or a more awkward attempt at diplomacy 
never disgraced the annals of ministerial intrigue. He 
immediately laid his budget before the Legislature. 
Happily Mr Jefferson was a member ; and he was en 
treated to delay his departure for Congress, until this 
exciting subject should be disposed of. The speaker, 
Randolph, knowing that the same proposition had been 


addressed to the governors of all the colonies, and anx 
ious that the answer of the Virginia Assembly should 
harmonize with the sentiments and wishes of the body 
he had recently left, persuaded Mr Jefferson to remain 
at his post. He feared, says the latter, that Mr 
Nicholas, whose mind was not yet up to the mark of the 
times, would undertake the answer, and therefore press 
ed me to prepare it. 

The import of this celebrated proposition was, that 
should any colony propose to contribute its proportion 
towards providing for the common defence, such pro 
portion to be disposable by Parliament, and to defray the 
amount of its own civil list, such colony, the proposal 
being approved by the parent government, should be ex 
empted from all parliamentary taxes, except those for 
the regulation of commerce ; the net proceeds of which 
should be passed to its separate credit. It was perceived 
at once, that an official proposition from the British 
court, so specious in its terms, and at the same time so 
mischievous in its designs, required a fundamental evis 
ceration and reply. A committee of twelve therefore of 
the strongest members, was raised, to devise the appro 
priate treatment ; and to Mr Jefferson, who was one of 
the committee, was assigned with one accord the exclu 
sive preparation of the instrument. The admirable ad 
dress with which he baffled the diplomacy of the British 
minister, and the designs of his vaunted Proposition, 
has been the theme of the historian and the statesman, 
from that day to the present. The original draught was 
so strong that even the committee were in doubt ; and 
although they consented to report it, they attacked it 
with severity in the House. But with the aid of 
Randolph, says Mr Jefferson, I carried it through ; 
with long and doubtful scruples from Mr Nicholas and 
James Mercer, and a dash of cold water on it here and 
there, enfeebling it somewhat, but finally with unanimi 
ty, or a vote approaching it. 


In this paper the author did not scruple to intimate to 
the minister, that his proposition was perfectly under 
stood on this side of the water. That its real object was 
to produce a division among the Colonies, some of 
which, it was supposed, would accept it and forsake the 
rest ; or in failure of that, to afford a pretext to the peo 
ple of England for justifying the Government in the 
adoption of the most coercive measures. He declared 
moreover that having examined it in the most favorable 
point of view, he was still compelled with pain and dis 
appointment to conclude, that it only changed the form 
of oppression, without lightening its burden ; and that 
therefore it must be met by a firm and unqualified rejec 
tion. He said that the proposal then made to them, in 
volved the interests of all the Colonies, and should have 
been addressed to them in their collective capacity. 
They were represented in a general Congress composed 
of Deputies from all the States, whose union, he trusted, 
had been so strongly cemented that no partial applica 
tion could produce the slightest departure from the com 
mon cause. They considered themselves as bound in 
honor, as well as interest, to share one general fate with 
their sister colonies : and should hold themselves as base 
deserters of the Union to which they had acceded, were 
they to agree to any measure of a separate accommo 
dation. This celebrated paper concludes with a reli 
gious ejaculation ; the want of which in some of the 
documents drawn by Mr Jefferson, has afforded a theme 
of unjust animadversion upon his views of the Divine 

These, my Lord, are our sentiments, on this impor 
tant subject, which we offer only as an individual part of 
the whole empire. Final determination we leave to the 
General Congress, now sitting, before whom we shall 
lay the papers your lordship has communicated to us. 
For ourselves, we have exhausted every mode of appli 
cation which our invention could suggest, as proper and 
promising. We have decently remonstrated with par- 


liament they have added new injuries to the old ; we 
have wearied our King * with supplications he has not 
deigned to answer us ; we have appealed to the native 
honor and justice of the British nation their efforts in 
our favor have hitherto been ineffectual. What then re 
mains to be done 1 That we commit our injuries to the 
even-handed justice of that Being, who doeth no wrong, 
earnestly beseeching Him to illuminate the councils, and 
prosper the endeavors of those to whom America hath 
confided her hopes ; that through their wise directions, 
we may again. see re-united the blessings of liberty, pros 
perity and harmony with Great Britain. 

It may be considered fortunate that Virginia took the 
precedence of the other Colonies, perhaps even of Con 
gress, in replying to this deceptive overture ; and no less 
fortunate that the business of preparing the answer de 
volved on Mr Jefferson. A less decisive and unequivo 
cal stand at the outset, would have admitted the entering 
wedge, and perhaps ended in utter disorganization. It 
is not among the least of the merits of this performance, 
that the Union is kept uppermost throughout, and the 
word Congress sounded in the ears of his lordship at 
every step, sternly intimating that that is the door at 
which he must knock with all his messages of negocia- 
tion. Better evidence, however, of the high character 
of this production could not be given, than the fact that, 
on Mr Jefferson s repairing to Philadelphia and convey 
ing the first notice of it to Congress, that enlightened 
body were so impressed with the ground taken, that 
they very soon adopted it, after a slight revision by the 
author, as the concurrent voice of the nation. This cir 
cumstance accounts for the similarity of feature in the 
two instruments. Viewed in a political light the present 
essay, like his Rights of British America, proves the 
author s mind to have been indoctrinated in the great 
principles of the Revolution, long before he wrote the 
Declaration of Independence. Its effect upon Lord 
Dunmore may be inferred from his answer, a few days 
after its presentation to his Excellency. It was suffi- 


ciently laconic. Gentlemen of the House of Burgesses 
It is with real concern I can discover nothing in your 
address, that I think manifests the smallest inclination 
to, or will be productive of, a reconciliation with the 
mother country. 

This was the last regal Assembly that ever met in 
Virginia. They adjourned on the 24th of June, 75, and 
the Governor could never afterwards collect a quorum. 
In a paroxysm of terror he had some days before aban 
doned the palace, and fled for refuge on board one of the 
British ships of war, declaring he would never return, 
unless they accepted the conciliatory proposition of the 
Prime Minister. Although his Excellency returned, the 
people would never afterwards receive him or rever 
ence his authority. 

As this was the last, so was it the most important As 
sembly that was held under the royal government. By 
its decisions, a long stride was taken in the advancement 
of the general cause. The example was electric upon 
the other provinces, and was felt with awe in the great 
American Council. The constant gratitude, says Girar- 
din, of the American people, will, through every succeed 
ing generation, be due to this assembly of enlightened 
patriots. Had they, upon this occasion, have accepted 
of any partial terms of accommodation, favorable to them 
selves alone, and in exclusion of the rights of the other 
colonies, or had they been less firm in repelling the ag 
gressions of the Governor, or less able in defending their 
own liberties, the cause of American Independence might 
probably have terminated very differently from what it 
actually did. 

The fall of the regal power in Virginia commenced 
the literal verification of that blasting prophecy of Wilkes 
in the House of Commons, the February before. But the 
4 loss of the first province of the empire was not follow 
ed, as he hoped, with the loss of the heads of the Min 
isters. In the course of one of the most vehement and 


overwhelming onsets against the administration, and one 
of the most ardent and powerful discourses upon human 
liberty, every tittle of which was a prophecy, that intre 
pid defender of the rights of man uttered the following 
sentences. In the great scale of empire, you will de 
cline, I fear from the decision of this day ; and the Amer 
icans will rise to independence, to power, to all the 
greatness of the most renowned States ; for they build 
on the solid basis of general public liberty. If you 
persist in your resolution, all hope of reconciliation is 
extinct. The Americans will triumph the whole con 
tinent of North America will be dismembered from 
Great Britain, and the w r ide arch of the raised empire 
fall. But I hope the just vengeance of the people will 
overtake the authors of these pernicious counsels, and 
the loss of the first province of the empire, be speedily 
followed by the loss of the heads of those Ministers who 
first invented them. 





ON the 21st of June, 1775, Mr Jefferson took his seat 
in the grand council of arbiters, to whom America had 
committed the direction of her destinies. In the origi 
nation of this Council, he had exercised a leading agen 
cy ; and through the whole process of its establishment, 
had persevered with ardor. 

He was now ushered upon a theatre, broad enough 
to meet his own standard of thought and desire of ac 
tion. His patriotism had comprehended the whole ter 
ritory of British America, and would stop at nothing 
short. The Union had had its birth place in his mind. 
It had been first breathed from his lips. He had pointed 
to it in all his propositions ; and hurled it in defiance 
at the British Premier The consolidation of the moral 
and physical energies of the continent, was the first ob 
ject of his ambition ; and that object was now in a fair 
course of accomplishment. 

Congress had been in session about six weeks when 
Mr Jefferson arrived ; yet an opportunity had been re 
served, in anticipation, for impressing the tone of his 
sentiments upon the most important state-paper that had 
yet been meditated. 

On the 24th of June, the committee which had been 
appointed to prepare a Declaration of the causes of taking 
up arms, brought in their report. The report, being dis 
approved by the majority, was recommitted, and Mr 
Jefferson and Mr Dickinson were added to the com 
mittee. This document was designed as a manifesto to 



the world, justifying a resistance to the parent govern 
ment, and required a skilful preparation. The com 
mittee requested Mr Jefferson to execute the draught. 
He excused himself; but on their pressing him with 
urgency, he consented. He brought it from his study, 
and laid it before the committee. As anticipated by 
the writer, it was too strong for Mr Dickinson, who 
still retained the hope of reconciliation with the mother 
country, and was unwilling it should be lessened by of 
fensive statements. He was so honest a man, says 
Jefferson, * and so able a one, that he was greatly in 
dulged even by those who could not feel his scruples. 
They therefore requested him to take the paper, and re 
mould it according to his own views. He did so : pre 
paring an entire new statement, and retaining of the 
former draught only the last four paragraphs and half 
of the preceding one. The committee approved and 
reported it. In Congress, it encountered the shrugs and 
grimaces of the revolutionary party in every quarter of the 
House ; and the desire of unanimity, ever predominant, 
was the only motive which silenced their repugnance to 
its lukewarmness. A humorous circumstance attending 
its adoption is related by Mr Jefferson. It shows the 
great disparity o*f opinion which prevailed in that body, 
and the mutual sacrifices which were constantly requir 
ed to preserve an unbroken* column. 

Congress gave a signal proof of their indulgence to 
Mr Dickinson, and of their great desire not to go too 
fast for any respectable part of our body, in permitting 
him to draw their second petition to the King, according 
to his own ideas, and passing it with scarcely any 
amendment. The disgust against its humility was gen 
eral; and Mr Dickinson s delight at its passage was the 
only circumstance which reconciled them to it. The 
vote being passed, although farther observation on it 
was out of order, he could not refrain from rising and 
expressing his satisfaction, and concluded by saying, 
" There is but one word, Mr President, in the paper 


which I disapprove, and that is the word Congress ; on 
which Ben Harrison rose and said, " There is but one 
word in the paper, Mr President, of which I approve, 
and that is the word Congress." 

This production enjoys a high reputation. The fact 
that Mr Jefferson had any agency in its prepara 
tion, or that so radical an opposition of views existed 
in the Congress of 75, has never been stated by 
any writer ; nor indeed had many interesting minutia?, 
connected with our ancient history come to the light, 
before the publication of his private * memoranda. As 
a literary performance, and as a specimen of revolu 
tionary fortitude perhaps unequalled, the effect of which 
was to charge the entire responsibility of the war upon 
Great Britain, it possesses great merit. But in a politi 
cal point of view, it is insufferably tame and humilia 
ting ; though even in that light, it was the best perhaps 
that the circumstances of the times allowed, inasmuch 
as it coincided with the sentiments of the great majority 
of the American people. It abandoned the whole ground 
which Mr Jefferson had taken in his draught, the ground 
which he had uniformly maintained in his previous 
writings, and the one which Congress themselves adopt 
ed, the ensuing year, as the only orthodox and tenable 
statement of their cause. It intimated a desire for an 
amicable compact, something like Magna Charta, in 
which doubtful, undefined points should be ascertained, 
so as to secure that proportion of authority and liberty, 
which would be for the general good of the whole em 
pire. It claimed only a partial exemption from the au 
thority of parliament ; expressed a willingness in the 
colonies to contribute, in their own way, to the expenses 
of government ; but made a traverse, at last, in prefer 
ring the horrors of war to submission to the unlimited 
supremacy of parliament.* 

* Ramsay. 


Such were the doctrines which influenced a very great 
majority of Congress. The actual revolutionists were 
a feeble body in the House. The decision of character 
requisite to assume a posture so heretical at this time, 
and so pregnant with the auguries of woe, desolation 
and death, appeared almost supernatural. It was en 
joyed by few even of that race of men. After stating 
the grounds upon which they rested the justification of 
their appeal to arms, the manifesto concludes in the 
language of Mr Jefferson s draught. 

It is worthy of remark that, while all historians have 
concurred in ascribing the entire production to Mr Dick 
inson, they have at the same time generally quoted only 
Mr Jefferson s conclusion. 

* We are reduced to the alternative of choosing an 
unconditional submission to the tyranny of irritated 
ministers, or resistance by force the latter is our 
choice. We have counted the cost of this contest, and 
find nothing so dreadful as voluntary slavery. Honor, 
justice, and humanity, forbid us tamely to surrender that 
freedom which we received from our gallant ancestors, 
and which our innocent posterity have a right to receive 
from us. We cannot endure the infamy and guilt of 
resigning succeeding generations to that wretchedness 
which inevitably awaits them, if we basely entail here 
ditary bondage upon them. 

1 Our cause is just. Our union is perfect. Our in 
ternal resources are great ; and, if necessary, foreign 
assistance is undoubtedly attainable. We gratefully ac 
knowledge, as signal instances of the Divine favor to 
wards us, that his Providence would not permit us to be 
called into this severe controversy, until we were grown 
up to our present strength, had been previously exer 
cised in warlike operation, and possessed of the means 
of defending ourselves. With hearts fortified with these 
animating reflections, we most solemnly, before God 
and the world, declare, that, exerting the utmost energy 
of those powers, which our beneficent Creator hath 
graciously bestowed on us, the arms we have been com 
pelled by our enemies to assume, we will, in defiance of 


every hazard, with unabating firmness and perseverance, 
employ for the preservation of our liberties ; being with 
one mind resolved to die freemen, rather than to live 

Lest this declaration should disquiet the minds of 
our friends and fellow subjects in any part of the empire, 
we assure them, that we mean not to dissolve that union 
which has so long and so happily subsisted between us, 
and which we sincerely wish to see restored necessity 
has not yet driven us into that desperate measure, or 
induced us to excite any other nation to war against 
them we have not raised armies with ambitious de 
signs of separating from Great Britain, and establish 
ing independent States. We fight not for glory or for 
conquest. We exhibit to mankind the remarkable spec 
tacle, of a people attacked by unprovoked enemies, 
without any imputation or even suspicion of offence. 
They boast of their privileges and civilization, and yet 
proffer no milder conditions than servitude or death. 

In our own native land, in defence of the freedom 
that is our birth right, and which we ever enjoyed until 
the late violation of it for the protection of our pro 
perty, acquired solely by the honest industry of our fore 
fathers and ourselves, against violence actually offered, 
we have taken up arms. We shall lay them down when 
hostilities shall cease on the part of the aggressors, and 
all danger of their being renewed shall be removed 
and not before. 

4 With an humble confidence in the mercies of the 
supreme and impartial Judge and Ruler of the universe, 
we most devoutly implore his divine goodness to protect 
us happily through this great conflict, to dispose our 
adversaries to reconciliation on reasonable terms, and 
thereby to relieve the empire from the calamities of civil 

This declaration was published to the army by Gen 
eral Washington ; and proclaimed from the pulpit, with 
great solemnity, by the ministers of religion. 

On the 22d of July, Congress took into consideration 
the conciliatory proposition of Lord North. This was 
a final peace measure, and it is said they delayed their 


answer, under pretext of dignity, with a view to wait 
the event of the first actions, from which they might 
draw some prognostics of the probable issue of the war. 
However this may be, they exercised great discrimina 
tion in constituting the committee who should prepare 
the instrument. Being elected by ballot, the number of 
votes received by each, decided his station on the com 
mittee which was in the following order : Dr Frank 
lin, Mr Jefferson, John Adams and Richard H. Lee. A 
stronger committee could not have been raised in that 
House. It combined the greatest maturity of judgment, 
with the soundest revolutionary principles. It was a 
signal compliment to Mr Jefferson, who was but a new 
member, and the youngest man in the whole body. The 
answer of the Virginia Assembly upon the same subject 
having been read and admired, the committee requested 
its distinguished author to prepare the present report. 
He consented ; and as before observed, made his reply 
on the former occasion the basis of this. Although 
intimately blended with the reputation of the writer, 
and next in importance at that time to the Declaration 
of Independence, its great length excludes it from a 
place in this volume. 

On the first of August, Congress adjourned, to meet 
again on the 5th of September following. 

The following letters, which Mr Jefferson addressed 
at this critical time to a friend in England, are rare 
revolutionary fragments. They show how little there 
was of any thing but principle, which entered into the 
motives of a principal actor, and one who was pro 
scribed as unpardonable among the movers of the re 

Monticello, August 25, 1775. 

* DEAR SIR, I am sorry the situation of our country 
should render it not eligible to you to remain longer in 
it. I hope the returning wisdom of Great Britain will, 
ere long, put an end to this unnatural contest. There 


may be people to whose tempers and dispositions, con 
tention is pleasing, and who, therefore, wish a con 
tinuance of confusion ; but to me, it is of all states but 
one, the most horrid. My first wish is a restoration of 
our just rights ; my second, a return of the happy pe 
riod, when, consistently with duty, I rnay withdraw 
myself totally from the public stage, and pass the rest 
of my days in domestic ease and tranquillity, banishing 
every desire of ever hearing what passes in the world. 
Perhaps, (for the latter adds considerably to the warmth 
of the former wish,) looking with fondness towards a 
reconciliation with Great Britain, I cannot help hoping 
you may be able to contribute towards expediting .this 
good work. I think it must be evident to yourself that 
the Ministry have been deceived by their officers on this 
side of the water, who (for what purpose, I cannot tell) 
have constantly represented the American opposition as 
that of a small faction, in which the body of the people 
took little part. This, you can inform them, of your 
own knowledge, is untrue. They have taken it into 
their heads, too, that we are cowards, and shall surren 
der at discretion to an armed force. The past and fu 
ture operations of the war must confirm or undeceive 
them on that head. I wish they were thoroughly and 
minutely acquainted with every circumstance relative to 
America, as it exists in truth. I am persuaded, this 
would go far towards disposing them to reconciliation. 
Even those in parliament who are called friends to 
America, seem to know nothing of our real determina 
tions. I observe, they pronounced in the last parlia 
ment, that the Congress of 1774, did not mean to insist 
rigorously on the terms they held out, but kept some 
thing in reserve, to give up ; and, in fact, that they 
would give up every thing but the article of taxation. 
Now, the truth is far from this, as I can affirm, and put 
my honor to the assertion. Their continuance in this 
error may perhaps produce very ill consequences. The 
Congress stated the lowest terms they thought possible 
to be accepted, in order to convince the world they were 
not unreasonable. They gave up the monopoly and 
regulation of trade, and all acts of parliament prior to 
1764, leaving to British generosity to render these, at 


some future time, as easy to America, as the interest of 
Britain would admit. But this was before blood was 
spilt. I cannot affirm, but have reason to think, these 
terms would not now be accepted. I wish no false sense 
of honor, no ignorance of our real intentions, no vain 
hope that partial concessions of right will be accepted, 
may induce the Ministry to trifle with accommodation, 
till it shall be out of their power ever to accommodate. 
If, indeed, Great Britain, disjoined from her colonies, 
be a match for the most potent nations of Europe, with 
the colonies thrown into their scale, they may go on 
securely. But if they are not assured of this, it would 
be certainly unwise, by trying the event of another 
campaign, to risk our accepting a foreign aid, which 
perhaps may not be obtainable, but on condition of ever 
lasting avulsion from Great Britain. This would be 
thought a hard condition to those who still wish for re 
union with their parent country. I am sincerely one of 
those ; and would rather be in dependence on Great 
Britain, properly limited, than on any nation upon earth, 
or than on no nation. But I am one of those, too, who, 
rather than submit to the rights of legislating for us, as 
sumed by the British parliament, and which late expe 
rience has shown they will so cruelly exercise, would 
lend my hand to sink the whole island in the ocean. 

8 If undeceiving the Minister, as to matters of fact, may 
change his disposition, it will perhaps be in your power, 
by assisting to do this, to render service to the whole 
empire at the most critical time, certainly, that it has 
ever seen. Whether Britain shall continue the head of 
the greatest empire on earth, or shall return to her 
original station in the political scale of Europe, depends, 
perhaps, on the resolutions of the succeeding winter. 
God send they may be wise and salutary for us all. I 
shall be glad to hear from you as often as you may be 
disposed to think of things here. You may be at liberty, 
I expect, to communicate some things, consistently with 
your honor and the duties you will owe to a protecting 
nation. Such a communication among individuals may 
be mutually beneficial to the contending parties. On 
this or any future occasion, if I affirm to you any facts, 
your knowledge of me will enable you to decide on their 


credibility ; if I hazard opinions on the dispositions of 
men or other speculative points, you can only know they 
are my opinions. My best wishes for your felicity at 
tend you wherever you go ; and believe me to be, assur 
edly, your friend and servant. 

Philadelphia, Nov. 29, 1775. 

Dear Sir, * * * * * * It is an immense 
misfortune to the whole empire, to have a King of such 
a disposition at such a time. We are told, and every 
thing proves it true, that he is the bitterest enemy we 
have. His Minister is able, and that satisfies me, that 
ignorance or wickedness somewhere, controls him. In 
an earlier part of this contest, our petitions told him, 
that from our King there was but one appeal. The ad 
monition was despised, and that appeal forced on us. 
To undo his empire, he has but one truth more to learn : 
that, after colonies have drawn the sword, there is but 
one step more they can take. That step is now pressed 
upon us by the measures adopted, as if they were afraid 
we would not take it. Believe me, dear Sir, there is not 
in the British empire a man who more cordially loves a 
union with Great Britain than I do. But, by the God 
that made me, I will cease to exist before I yield to a 
connection on such terms as the British Parliament 
propose ; and in this, I think I speak the sentiments of 
America. We want neither inducement nor power to 
declare and assert a separation, it is will alone which 
is wanting ; and that is growing apace under the foster 
ing hand of our King. One bloody campaign will pro 
bably decide everlastingly our future course ; I am sorry 
to find a bloody campaign is decided on. If our winds 
and waters should not combine to rescue their shores 
from slavery, and General Howe s reinforcement should 
arrive in safety, we have hopes he will be Inspirited to 
come out of Boston and take another drubbing ; and we 
must drub him soundly, before the sceptred tyrant will 
know we are not mere brutes, to crouch under his hand, 
and kiss the rod with which he deigns to scourge us. 
Yours, &c. 

Mr Jefferson was re-elected to Congress in August, 
1775, and again in June, 76 ; continuing a member of 


that body, without intermission, until he resigned his 
seat in September, 76. 

During his absence however, at Philadelphia, he was 
not inattentive to the affairs of his native state. He 
maintained a constant correspondence with the patriot 
leaders in that province, particularly Mr Wythe, and 
stimulated them, if any stimulus was wanting, to the 
strongest measures of political enfranchisement. Hav 
ing headed the principal movements of a civil character 
in Virginia, he exercised a preponderating influence in 
her councils. 

The dissolution of the regal, and substitution of the 
popular administration in Virginia, was unattended by a 
single convulsion. But as yet, no settled form of gov 
ernment had been established. There was no constitft- 
tion, and no distinct executive head. The legislative, 
judiciary, and executive functions were all lodged in one 
body the colonial convention. This was the grand 
depository of the whole political power of the province. 
Although confined to his station in congress and op 
pressed with the cares of the general administration, Mr 
Jefferson could not overlook in silence, the dangers to 
be apprehended from so jarring a combination of funda 
mental powers in the political establishment of Virginia ; 
and he exerted his influence to procure a more perfect 
organization, at the meeting of the next convention. 

The Convention assembled at Williamsburg on the 
6th of May, 1776, when the vices of the existing system 
were removed by the adoption of a DECLARATION OF 
RIGHTS and a CONSTITUTION, which have continued 
without alteration from that day until the convention of 
1829. The subject was brought forward on the 15th of 
May, by colonel Archibald Gary, who moved the ap 
pointment of a committee * to prepare a declaration of 
rights and plan of government, to maintain peace and 
order in the colony, and secure substantial and equal 
liberty to the people. Whereupon a committee of 


thirty-four persons was appointed, consisting of the 
wisest heads and firmest hearts of Virginia ; of whom, 
that veteran republican, George Mason, was one. 

The question now arises, which has been so often 
agitated What particular agency, if any, had Mr 
*Jefferson in the formation of the Virginia Constitution ? 
He was distant from the scene of the Convention, and 
immersed in the complicated duties of his official station. 
This question has within a few years been put to rest by 
Mr Girardin, in his Continuation of Burke s History of 
Virginia. This gentleman had free access to Mr Jeffer 
son s papers while compiling his history, and has pre 
sented the matter in a clear light. 

It appears that the entire Preamble, and some portions 
of the body of the instrument, are the production of Mr 
t Jefferson ; but the bulk of the constitution, including the 
Declaration of Rights, is the work of George Mason. 
Eager in the great work of political reformation, the 
former had composed at Philadelphia, and transmitted 
to his friend Mr Wythe, the draught of an entire plan 
of government, comprehending a preamble, declaration 
of rights, and constitution. But his plan was not receiv 
ed until a previous one had .gone through a committee 
of the whole, and been submitted to the convention for 
their final sanction. It was then too late to adopt it 
entire. t Mr Jefferson s valuable communication, says 
Mr Girardin, reached the convention just at the mo 
ment when the plan originally drawn up by colonel 
George Mason, and afterwards discussed and amended, 
was to receive the final sanction of that venerable body. 
It was now too late to retrace previous steps ; the ses 
sion had already been uncommonly laborious ; and con 
siderations of personal delicacy hindered those, to whom 
Mr Jefferson s ideas were imparted, from proposing or 
urging new alterations. Two or three parts of his plan, 
and the whole of his preamble, however, were adopted ; 
and to this circumstance must be ascribed the strong 


similitude between the Preamble, and the Declaration of 
Independence subsequently issued by the Continental 
Congress, both having been traced by the same pen. 
In the Life of Patrick Henry, it is also stated : There 
now exists among the archives of this State, an original 
rough draught of a Constitution for Virginia, in the 
hand-writing of Mr Jefferson, containing this identical 
preamble. The body of the constitution had been 
adopted by the committee of the whole, before the arrival 
of Mr Jefferson s plan : his preamble, however, was pre 
fixed to the instrument ; and some of the modifications 
proposed by him, introduced into the body of it. 

The constitution was adopted unanimously,* on the 
29th of June, 1776 ; and to that date may be referred / 
the first establishment of self-government, by a written }s 
compact, in the western continent, and probably in the 
whole world. It formed the model for all the other 
States, as they successively recovered themselves from 
the parent monarchy. The example of Virginia was 
soon followed by other provinces, and the popular ad 
ministrations succeeded to the regal with astonishing 

The following paragraph in a letter to Major John 
Cartwright, in 1824, will suffice to show the general light 
in which Mr Jefferson viewed the first republican char 
ter, as well as the extent to which he carried his dem 
ocratic theory, in 1776. 

Virginia, of which I am myself a native and resident, 
was- not only the first of the States, but, I believe I may 
say, the first of the nations of the earth, which assem 
bled its wise men peaceably together, to form a funda 
mental constitution, to commit it to writing, and place it 
among their archives, where every one should be free to 
appeal to its text. But this act was very imperfect. 
The other States, as they proceeded successfully to the 
same work, made successive improvements ; and several 
of them, still further corrected by experience, have, by 
conventions, still further amended their first forms. My 


own State has gone on so far with its premiere ebauche ; 
but it is now proposing to call a convention for amend 
ment. Among the other improvements, I hope they will 
adopt the subdivision of our counties into wards. The 
former may be estimated at an average of twenty-four 
miles square ; the latter should be about six miles square 
each, and would answer to the hundreds of your Saxon 
Alfred. In each of these might be, 1. An elementary 
school. 2. A company of militia, with its officers. 3. 
A justice of the peace and constable. 4. Each ward 
should take care of their own poor. 5. Their own roads. 
6. Their own police. 7. Elect within themselves one or 
more jurors to attend the courts of justice. And, 8. 
Give in at their Folk-house, their votes for all function 
aries reserved to their election. Each ward would thus 
be a small republic within itself, and every man in the 
State would thus become an acting member of the com 
mon government, transacting in person a great portion 
of its rights and duties, subordinate indeed, yet impor 
tant and entirely within his competence. The wit of 
man cannot devise a more solid basis for a free, durable, 
and well-administered Republic. 

This was the remarkable extent to which Mr Jeffer 
son carried his theory of popular government at the first 
leap. That he had imbibed these doctrines so early 
as 76, is evident ; for in his celebrated Revisal of the 
Laws of Virginia, commenced in the autumn of that 
year, he introduced a proposition for dividing the whole 
State into wards of six miles square, and for imparting 
to each, those identical portions of self-government above 

This Convention aspired to a higher agency in direct 
ing the course of the Revolution. The same hour which 
gave birth to the proposition for establishing the new 
government, was signalized by the adoption of a recom 
mendation, which pointed directly to the grand object of 
the struggle. The resolution containing it, was conceiv 
ed in the following terms : 

Resolved, unanimously, That the Delegates appoint- 


ed to represent this Colony in Genera] Congress, be in 
structed to propose to that respectable body, to DECLARE 
absolved from all allegiance to, or dependance upon, the 
Crown or Parliament of Great Britain ; and that they 
give the assent of this Colony to such declaration, and 
to whatever measures may be thought proper and neces 
sary by the Congress, for forming foreign alliances, and 
A CONFEDERATION OF THE COLONIES, at such time, and in 
the manner, as to them shall seem best. Provided, that 
the power of forming government for, and the regulation 
of, the internal concerns of each Colony, be left to the 
respective Colonial Legislatures. 

The intelligence of this denouement was received with 
a general feeling of approbation throughout the coun 
try, and in many places with demonstrations of joy. It 
was the signal for corresponding manifestations in most 
of the provincial Legislatures, and in the course of a 
short period, a great majority of the Representatives in 
Congress were instructed to the same effect. 

At this moment, the author of * Common Sense light 
ed his fiercest torch. The efforts of this unrivalled pro 
pagandist, were powerfully reinforced by those solid ap 
peals to the reason and conscience, which were pro 
pounded to individual characters of weight in different 
sections, through the dignified medium of private cor 
respondence. This was the great political lever of Mr 
Jefferson. These active moral causes, mingling in con 
fluence, poured a steady stream of excitement into the 
popular mind. The brilliant success of the American 
arms, in several important engagements, strengthened 
the general feeling. 

In Congress also, at this period (May 76) correspond 
ing advances had been made in political sentiment. 
The doctrines of Mr Jefferson were now clearly in the 
ascendant. It was no longer heresy to maintain the 
sovereignty of the people, and the co-ordinate sove 
reignty of the States with Great Britain in all matters 


of government, external as well as internal ; at least, it 
was not so in practice, however it may have been in the 
abstract. The revolutionary party were predominant. 
A powerful minority, however, still existed, who clung 
with filial reverence to the supposed ties which bound 
them in conscience and honor to the parent government. 
But happily, this party were terribly shaken in their faith 
by a recent act of Parliament, which declared the Col 
onies in a state of rebellion, and out of the protection of 
the British Crown. They reasoned from this, that as 
protection and dependance were reciprocal, the one hav 
ing ceased, the other might also ; and that therefore, 
Great Britain herself had actually declared them inde 
pendent ! This was a sound conclusion ; and who can 
sufficiently admire the stupendous folly of the British 
Parliament 1 Still, however, cautious approaches to the 
last extremities were requisite to preserve the general 
assent of the people. 

A preparatory step was accordingly taken by the pa 
triots, which discovered great address. A resolution was 
proposed, declaring that whereas the government of 
Great Britain had excluded the United Colonies from the 
protection of the Grown,, it was therefore irreconcilable 
to reason and good conscience, for the people to con 
tinue their allegiance to the government under that 
crown ; and they accordingly recommended the several 
colonies to establish independent governments of their own* 

This resolution was adopted on the 15th of May ; and 
by a remarkable coincidence the Convention of Virginia 
had, on the same day, adopted the resolution appointing 
a committee to prepare a declaration of rights and plan 
of government for that colony. It is said that Mr Jef 
ferson, being constantly apprised of the progress of the 
Convention, promoted this singular concurrence of pa 
rallel results with a view to popular effect. Be this as it 
may, he was an ardent supporter of the measure in con 
gress ; regarding it as the entering wedge to the grand 


proposition which he throbbed with impatience to see 
carried. , 

On the 28th of May, upon motion of Mr Jefferson, 
congress resolved that an animated address be publish 
ed, to impress the minds of the people with the necessi 
ty of now stepping forward to save their country, their \ 
freedom, and their property. Being appointed chair 
man of the committee upon this resolution, he prepared 
the address; and an animated one it was ; .conceived in 
his happiest mariner, with a power of expression and of 
argument, which carried conviction and courage to the 
breast of every man. This was another ingenious stroke 
of policy, designed to prepare the popular mind for a 
favorable reception of the momentous decision in reserve. 

The plot of the drama now began to thicken. The 
delegates from Virginia received their instructions early 
in June, and immediately held a conference to devise 
suitable means for their due execution. Richard H. 
Lee, being the oldest in the delegation, and endowed 
with extraordinary powers of eloquence, was designated 
to make the introductory motion, and the seventh of 
June was ordered as the day. Accordingly, on that day 
he rose from his seat and moved that congress should 
declare, That these United Colonies are, and of right 
ought to be, free and independent States ; that they are ab 
solved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that 
all political connection between them and the State of 
Great Britain, is, and ought to be, totally dissolved ; that 
measures should be immediately taken for procuring the 
assistance of foreign powers, and a Confederation be 
formed to bind the colonies more closely together. 

The House being obliged to attend at that time, to 
some other business, the proposition was deferred till 
the next day, when the members were ordered to attend 
punctually at ten o clock. 

Saturday, June 8th, Congress proceeded to take the 
subject into consideration, and referred it to a Commit- 


tee of the Whole, into which they immediately resolved 
themselves, and passed that day and Monday, the 10th, 
in warm and vehement debates. 

The conflict was painful. The grounds of opposition 
to the measure affected its expediency as to time, rather 
than its absolute propriety, and were strenuously urged 
by Dickinson and Wilson of Pennsylvania, Robert R. 
Livingston of New-York, Edward Rutledge of South 
Carolina, and some others. The leading advocates of 
the immediate declaration of independence were Mr 
Jefferson, John and Samuel Adams, Lee, Wythe, and 
some others. The heads only of the arguments de 
livered on this interesting occasion, have been preserved 
by one man alone, Mr Jefferson, and they owe their 
first disclosure to the world, to his posthumous publica 

The tenor of the debate indicated such a strength of 
opposition to the measure, that it was deemed impolitic 
to press it at this time. The Colonies of New- York, 
New-Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and 
South Carolina, were not yet matured for falling from 
the parent stem, but as they were fast advancing to that 
state, it was thought most prudent to wait awhile for 
them. The final decision of the question was therefore 
postponed to the 1st of July. But, that this might occa 
sion as little delay as possible, it was ordered that a 
committee be appointed to prepare a DECLARATION OF 
INDEPENDENCE, in accordance with the motion. Mr Jef 
ferson having the highest number of votes, was placed 
at the head of this Committee ; the other members were 
John Adams, Dr Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert 
R. Livingston. The Committee met, and unanimously 
solicited Mr Jefferson to prepare the draught of the De 
claration alone. He drew it ; but before submitting it 
to the Committee, he communicated it separately to Dr 

* See Vol. I, Jefferson s Works. 


Franklin and Mr Adams, with a view to avail himself of 
the benefit of their criticisms. They criticised it, and 
suggested two or three alterations, merely verbal, intend 
ed to soften somewhat the original phraseology. The 
Committee unanimously approved it ; and on Friday, 
the 28th of June, he reported it to Congress, when it was 
read and ordered to lie on the table. 

On Monday the first of July, agreeably to assignment, 
the House resolved itself into a committee of the whole, 
and resumed the consideration of the preliminary motion. 
It was debated again through the day, and finally carri 
ed in the affirmative by the votes of New-Hampshire 
Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode-Island, New-Jersey, 
Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia. South 
Carolina and Pennsylvania voted against it. Delaware 
had but two members present, and they were divided. 
The Delegates from New-York declared they were for 
it themselves, and were assured their constituents were 
for it ; but that their instructions having been drawn near 
a twelvemonth before, when reconciliation was still the 
general object, they were enjoined by them to do nothing 
which should impede that object. They therefore thought 
themselves not justifiable in voting on either side, and 
asked leave to withdraw from the question ; which was 
granted them. In this state of things, the Committee 
rose and reported their resolution to the House. Mr 
Edward Rutledge, of South Carolina, then requested that 
the decision might be put off to the next day, as he 
believed his colleagues, though they disapproved of the 
resolution, would then join in it for the sake of unanimi 
ty. The ultimate decision by the House was according 
ly postponed to the next day, July 2d, when it was again 
moved, and South Carolina concurred in voting for it. 
In the mean time, a third member had come post from 
the Delaware counties, and turned the vote of that Colo 
ny in favor of the resolution. Members of a different 
sentiment attending that morning from Pennsylvania, 


her vote also was changed ; so that the whole twelve 
Colonies, who were authorised to vote at all, gave their 
voice for it ; and within a few days, July 9th, the Con 
vention of New- York approved of it, and thus supplied 
the void occasioned by the withdrawal of her Delegates 
from the question. 

It should be observed that these fluctuations and the 
final vote were upon the original motion, to declare the 
Colonies independent. 

Congress proceeded the same day, July 3d, to consider 
tjie Declaration of Independence, which had been report 
ed the 28th of June, and ordered to lie on the table. 
The debates were again renewed with great violence 
greater than before. Tremendous was the ordeal through 
which the title-deed of our liberties, perfect as it had 
issued from the hands of its artificer, was destined 
to pass. Inch by inch, was its progress through the 
House disputed. Every dictum of peculiar political force, 
and almost every expression was made a subject of ac 
rimonious animadversion by the anti-revolutionists. On 
the other hand, the champions of Independence con 
tended with the constancy of martyrs, for every tenet 
and every word of the precious gospel of their faith. 
Among the latter class, the Author of the Declaration 
himself has assigned to John Adams the station of pre 
eminence. Thirty-seven years afterwards, he declared 
that * Mr Adams was the pillar of its support on the floor 
of Congress, its ablest advocate and defender against the 
multifarious assaults it encountered. At another time, 
he said John Adams was our Colossus on the floor. 
Not graceful, not elegant, not always fluent in his public 
addresses, he yet came out with a power, both of thought 
and of expression, which moved us from our seats. 

The debates were continued with unremitting heat 
through the 2d, 3d, and 4th days of July, till on the 
evening of the last the most important day perhaps, 
politically speaking, that the world ever saw they were 


brought to a close. The principle of unanimity finally 
prevailed; reciprocal concessions, sufficient to unite all 
on the solid ground of the main purpose, were made. 
In the generous spirit of compromise, however, some of 
the most splendid specifications in the American Char 
ter were surrendered. On some of these it is well known 
the author himself set the highest value, as recognizing 
principles to which he was enthusiastically partial, and 
which were almost peculiar to him. His scorching 
malediction against the traffickers in human blood, stood 
conspicuously among the latter. The light in which he 
viewed these depredations upon the original, may be 
gathered from the following memorandum of the trans 
action ; in which too, he betrays a fact in relation to 
New England, that is not generally known. 

The pusillanimous idea that we had friends in Eng 
land worth keeping terms with, still haunted the minds 
of many. For this reason, those passages which con 
veyed censures on the people of England, were struck 
out, lest they should give them offence. The clause too, 
reprobating the enslaving the inhabitants of Africa, was 
struck out, in complaisance to South Carolina and 
Georgia, who had never attempted to restrain the im 
portation of slaves, and who, on the contrary, still wish 
ed to continue it. Our northern brethren also, I believe, 
felt a little tender under those censures ; for though the 
people had very few slaves themselves, yet they had been 
pretty considerable carriers of them to others. 

For the purpose of comparing the original, with the 
amended form, the Declaration shall be presented as it 
came from the hands of the author. The parts strick 
en out by Congress are printed in italics, and inclosed 
in brackets ; and those inserted by them are placed in 
the margin. The sentiments of men are known by 
what they reject, as well as by what they receive, and 
the comparison in the present case, will demonstrate the 
singular forwardness of one mind on certain great prin 
ciples of Political Science. 


A Declaration by the Representatives of the United 
States of America, in General Congress assembled. 

When, in the course of human events, it 
becomes necessary for one people to dissolve 
the political bands which have connected 
them with another, and to assume among the 
powers of the earth, the separate and equal 
station to which the laws of nature and of 
nature s God entitle them, a decent respect 
to the opinions of mankind requires, that 
they should declare the causes which impel 
them to the separation. 

We hold these truths to be self-evident : 
that all men are created equal; that they 
are endowed by their Creator with [inherent 
and] inalienable rights ; that among these 
are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness ; 
that to secure these rights, governments are 
instituted among men, deriving their just 
powers from the consent of the governed ; 
that whenever any form of government be 
comes destructive of these ends, it is the 
right of a people to alter or abolish it, and 
to institute a new government, laying its foun 
dation on such principles, and organizing its 
powers in such form, as to them shall seem 
most likely to effect their safety and happi 
ness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that 
governments long established should not be 
changed for light and transient causes ; and 
accordingly all experience hath shown that 
mankind are more disposed to suffer while 
evils are sufferable, than to right themselves 
by abolishing the forms to which they are 
accustomed. But when a long train of abuses 
and usurpations [begun at a distinguished pe 
riod and] pursuing invariably the same ob 
ject, evinces a design to reduce them under 
absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their 
duty to throw off such government, and to 
provide new guards for their future security. 


Such has been the patient sufferance of the 
Colonies ; and such is now the necessity 
which constrains them to [expunge] their alter 
former systems of government. The his 
tory of the present King of Great Britain is 
a history of [unremitting] injuries and usur- repeated 
pations, [among which appears no solitary fact 
to contradict the uniform tenor of the rest, but 
all have] in direct object the establishment of all having 
an absolute tyranny over these States. To 
prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid 
world [for the truth ofichich we pledge a faith 
yet unsullied by falsehood.] 

He has refused his assent to laws the most 
wholesome and necessary for the public good. 

He has forbidden his governors to pass 
laws of immediate and pressing importance, 
unless suspended in their operation till his 
assent should be obtained ; and, when so sus 
pended, he has utterly neglected to attend to 

He has refused to pass other laws for the 
accommodation of large districts of people, 
unless those people would relinquish the right 
of representation in the legislature, a right 
inestimable to them, and formidable to tyrants 

He has called together legislative bodies 
at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant 
from the depository of their public records, 
for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into 
compliance with his measures. 

He has dissolved representative Houses re 
peatedly [and isLv *tini/ ally] for opposing with 
manly firmness his invasions on the rights of 
the people. 

He has refused for a long time after such 
dissolutions to cause others to be elected, 
whereby the legislative powers, incapable of 
annihilation, have returned to the people at 
large for their exercise, the State remaining, 
in the mean time, exposed to all the dangers 


of invasion from without and convulsions 

He has endeavored to prevent the popula 
tion of these States ; for that purpose ob 
structing the laws for naturalization of for 
eigners, refusing to pass others to encourage 
their migrations hither, and raising the con 
ditions of new appropriations of lands, 
obstructed He has [suffered] the administration of 
justice [totally to cease in some of these 
by States ] refusing his assent to laws for esta 

blishing judiciary powers. 

He has made [our] judges dependant on 
his will alone for the tenure of their offices, 
and the amount and payment of their 

He has erected a multitude of new offices, 
[by a self assumed power] and sent hither 
swarms of new officers to harass our people, 
and eat out their substance. 

He has kept among us in times of peace 
standing armies [and ships of war] without 
the consent of our legislatures. 

He has affected to render the military in 
dependent of, and superior to, the civil power. 

He has combined with others to subject us 
to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitutions 
and unacknowledged by our laws, giving his 
assent to their acts of pretended legislation 
for quartering large bodies of armed troops 
among us ; for protecting them by a mock 
trial from punishment for any rau T :de "s which 
they should commit on the s . habitants of 
these States ; for cutting ?v: *ur trade with 
all parts of the world ; for imposing taxes 
on us without our consent ; for depriving us 
in many [ ] of the benefits of trial by jury ; for trans- 
cases porting us beyond seas to be tried for pre 
tended offences ; for abolishing the free sys 
tem of English laws in a neighboring Pro 
vince, establishing therein an arbitrary gov 
ernment, and enlarging its boundaries, so as 


to render it at once an example and fit in 
strument for introducing the same absolute 
rule into these [states] ; for taking away our colonies 
charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, 
and altering fundamentally the forms of our 
governments ; for suspending our own legis 
latures, and declaring themselves invested 
with power to legislate for us in all cases 

He has abdicated government here [with- by declaring 
drawing his governors, and declaring us out of us out of his 
his allegiance and protection.] 

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our 
coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the U s 
lives of our people. 

He is at this time transporting large armies 
of foreign mercenaries to complete the works 
of death, desolation, and tyranny already be 
gun with circumstances of cruelty and per 
fidy [ 1 unworthy the head of a civilized scarcely par- 
nation. aSttuAM? 

He has constrained our fellow-citizens ous a es ant i 
taken captive on the high seas to bear arms totally 
against their country, to become the execu 
tioners of their friends and brethren, or to 
fall themselves by their hands. 

He has [ ] endeavored to bring on the in- excited do- 
habitants of our frontiers the merciless In- 
dian Savages, whose known rule of warfare amon(r us , 
is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, and has 
sexes and conditions [of existence.] 

[He has incited treasonable insurrections of 
our fellow- citizens, with the allurements of for 
feiture and confiscation of our property. 

He has urged cruel war against human na 
ture itself, violating its most sacred rights of 
life and liberty in the persons of a distant peo 
ple who never offended him, captivating and 
carrying them into slavery in another hemi 
sphere, or to incur miserable death in their 
transportation thither. This piratical war 
fare, the opprobrium of INFIDEL powers, is the 


warfare of the CHRISTIAN king of Great Brit 
ain. Determined to keep open a market where 
MEN should be bought and sold, he has prosti 
tuted his negative for suppressing every legis 
lative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this ex 
ecrable commerce. And that this assemblage of 
horrors might want no fact of distinguished 
die, he is now exciting those very people to rise 
in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty 
of which he has deprived them, by murdering 
the people on whom he also obtruded them : thus 
paying off former crimes committed against the 
LIBERTIES of one people with crimes which he 
urges them to commit against the LIVES of an 
other. ] 

In every stage of these oppressions we 
have petitioned for redress in the most hum 
ble terms : our repeated petitions have been 
answered only by repeated injuries. 

A prince whose character is thus marked 
by every act which may define a tyrant is 
free unfit to be the ruler of a [ ] people [who 

mean to be free. Future ages will scarcely 
believe that the hardiness of one man adventur 
ed, within the short compass of twelve years 
only, to lay a foundation so broad and so 
undisguised for tyranny over a people fos 
tered and Jixed in principles of freedom.] 

Nor have we been wanting in attentions to 
our British brethren. We have warned them 
from time to time of attempts by their legis- 
an unwar- lature to extend [a] jurisdiction over [these 
rantable our states.] We have reminded them of the 
us circumstances of our emigration and settle 

ment here [wo one of which could warrant so 
strange a pretension : that these were effected 
at the expense of our own blood and treasure, 
unassisted by the wealth or the strength of 
Great Britain : that in constituting indeed our 
several forms of government, we had adopted 
one common king, thereby laying a foundation 
for perpetual league and amity with them : but 


that submission to their parliament was no part 
of our constitution, nor ever in idea, if history 
may be credited : and,] we [ ] appealed to have 
their native justice and magnanimity [as we// and we have 
as to] the ties of our common kindred to dis- conjured 
avow these usurpations which [were likely to] them bv 
interrupt our connection and correspond- would inevit- 
ence. They too have been deaf to the voice abl ^ 
of justice and of consanguinity, [and when 
occasions have been given them, by the regular 
course of their laws, of removing from their 
councils the disturbers of our harmony, they 
have, by their free election, re-established them 
in power. At this very time too, they are per 
mitting their chief magistrate to send over not 
only soldiers of our common blood, but Scotch 
and foreign mercenaries to invade and destroy 
us. These facts have given the last stab to 
agonizing affection, and manly spirit bids us 
to renounce for ever these unfeeling brethren. 
We must endeavor to forget our former love 
for them, and hold them as we hold the rest 
of mankind, enemies in war, in peace friends. 
We might have been a free and a great people 
together ; but a communication of grandeur 
and of freedom, it see?ns, is below their dignity. 
Be it so, since they ivill have it* The road to 
happiness and to glory is open to us too. We We must 
will tread it apart from them, and] acquiesce therefore 
in the necessity which denounces our [eter 
nal] separation [ ] ! and hold 

them as we 
hold the rest 
of mankind, 
enemies in 
war, in peace, 

We, therefore, the representatives 
of the United States of America in appealing to the supremo 

General Congress assembled, [ ] doj" d e ? the world for 
, & , , , i J the rectitude of our m- 

in the name, and by the authority tentions 

of the good people of these [states co i onies , solemnly pub- 
reject and renounce all allegiance and lish and declare, that 



these united colonies are, subjection to the kings of Great Brit- 
and of right ought to ain and all others w]w ma hereafter 

SteTr &%%? ^ ^ ^ough, or under them ; we 
solved from all alle- utterly dissolve all political connec- 
giance to the British tion ivhich may heretofore have sub- 
crown, and that all po- sisted l ctween us ana the people or 
liucal connection be- 7 . _r *~i . i- * j 

tween them and the state parliament of Great Britain: and 
of Great Britain is, and finally we do assert and declare these 
ought to be, totally dis- colonies to be free and independent 
states,] and that as free and inde 
pendent states, they have full power 
to levy war, conclude peace, con 
tract alliances, establish commerce, 
and do all other acts and things 
which independent states may of 
right do. 

And for the support of this decla- 

with a firm reliance on ration, [ ] we mutually pledge to 
the protection of divine each other our lives, our fortunes, 
providence, an( j our sacre d honor. 

The world has long since passed judgment upon the 
relative merits of these two forms of the American 
Declaration, and awarded the meed of pre-eminence to 
the primitive one. The amendments obliterated some 
of its best and brightest features ; impaired the beauty 
and force of others ; and softened the general tone of 
the whole instrument. 

The Declaration thus amended in committee of the 
whole, was reported to the House on the 4th of July, 
agreed to, and signed by every member present except 
Mr Dickinson. On the 19th of July it was ordered to be 
engrossed on parchment ; and on the 2d of August, the 
engrossed copy, after being compared at the table with 
the original, was ordered to be signed by every member. 

On the same day that Independence was declared, Mr 
Jefferson was appointed one of a committee of three, to 
devise an appropriate Coat of Arms for the republic of 
the United States of America. 

The Declaration was received by the people with un- 


bounded admiration and joy. On the 8th of July it was 
promulgated with great solemnity, at Philadelphia, and 
saluted by the assembled multitude with peals on peals 
of acclamation. On the llth it was published in New 
York, and proclaimed before the American Army, then 
assembled in the vicinity, with all the pomp and circum 
stance of a military pageant. It was received with ex 
ultation by the collected chivalry of the Revolution. 
They filled the air with their shouts, and shook the earth 
with the thunders of their artillery. In Boston, the 
popular transports were unparalleled. The national 
manifesto was proclaimed from the balcony of the capi- 
tol, in the presence of all the authorities, civil and mili 
tary, and of an innumerable concourse of people. An 
immense banquet was prepared, at which the authori 
ties and all the principal citizens attended, and drank 
toasts expressive of enthusiastic veneration for liberty, 
and of detestation of tyrants. The rejoicings were con 
tinued through the night, and every ensign of royalty 
that adorned either the public or private edifice, was 
demolished before morning. 

Similar demonstrations of patriotic enthusiasm attend 
ed the reception of the Declaration in all the cities and 
chief towns of the continent. 

In Virginia, the annunciation was greeted with graver 
tokens of public felicitation. The convention decreed 
that the name of the King should be expunged from the 
liturgy of the established religion. All the remaining 
emblems of royal authority were superseded by appro 
priate representations of the new order of things. A 
new coat of arms for the commonwealth was immedi 
ately ordered. 

The author of the Declaration himself was not un 
conscious of the amazing consequences which would 
flow from it, when thus ushered before the world as the 
simultaneous fiat of the whole people. On the contrary, 
they formed the theme of his constant reflection and 

100 LIFE OP 

of his proudest prognostications. The emancipation of 
the whole family of nations, as the ultimate result, was 
the immovable conviction of his mind. It was in unison 
with the reveries of his early youth ; and experience 
but confirmed him in the animating presentiment. Stir 
ring effusions upon this topic abound in his private mem 
oranda, and in his familiar correspondence with friends. 
Speaking of the French Revolution as the first link in 
the chain of great consequences, he says, in his notes 
upon that ill-starred drama : 

As yet, we are but in the first chapter of its history. 
The appeal to the rights of man, which had been made 
in the United States, was taken up by France, first of 
the European nations. From her the spirit has spread 
over those of the South. The tyrants of the North have 
allied indeed against it ; but it is irresistible. Their op 
position will only multiply its millions of human victims; 
their own satellites will catch it, and the condition of 
man will be finally and greatly meliorated. This is a 
wonderful instance of great events from small causes. 
So inscrutable is the arrangement of causes and conse 
quences in this world, that a two-penny duty on tea, un 
justly imposed in a sequestered part of it, changes the 
condition of all its inhabitants. 

Again, in a letter to John Adams, in 1823, the kind 
ling prophecy is pursued. 

The generation which commences a revolution rare 
ly completes it. Habituated from their infancy to passive 
submission of body and mind to their kings and priests, 
they are not qualified, when called on, to think and pro 
vide for themselves; and their inexperience, their ignor 
ance and bigotry, make them instruments often, in the 
hands of the Bonapartes and Iturbides, to defeat their 
own rights and purposes. This is the present situation 
of Europe and Spanish America. But it is not desper 
ate. The light which has been shed on mankind by the 
art of printing, has eminently changed the condition of 
the world. As yet, that light has dawned on the mid 
dling classes only of the men in Europe. The kings 


and the rabble, of equal ignorance, have not yet receiv 
ed its rays ; but it continues to spread, and while print 
ing is preserved, it can no more recede than the sun re 
turn on his course. A first attempt to recover the right 
of self-government may fail, so may a second, a third, 
&c. But as a younger and more instructed race comes 
on, the sentiment becomes more and more intuitive, 
and a fourth, a fifth, or some subsequent one of the 
ever-renewed attempts will ultimately succeed. In 
France, the first effort was defeated by Robespierre, the 
second by Bonaparte, the third by Louis XVIII, and 
his holy allies; another is yet to come, and all Europe, 
Russia excepted, has caught the spirit ; and all will at 
tain representative government, more or less perfect. 
This is now well understood to be a necessary check on 
Kings, whom they will probably think it more prudent 
to chain and tame, than to exterminate. To attain all 
this, however, rivers of blood must yet flow, and years 
of desolation pass over ; yet the object is worth rivers 
of blood, and years of desolation. For what inheritance 
so valuable, can man leave to his posterity ? The spirit 
of the Spaniard, and his deadly and eternal hatred to a 
Frenchman, give me much confidence that he will never 
submit, but finally defeat the atrocious violation of the 
laws of God and man, under which he is suffering; and 
the wisdom and firmness of the Cortes, afford reason 
able hope, that that nation will settle down in a temper 
ate representative government, with an executive prop 
erly subordinated to that. Portugal, Italy, Prussia, 
Germany, Greece, will follow suit. You and I shall 
look down from another world on these glorious achieve 
ments to man, which will add to the joys even of heaven* 

Such are the ulterior tendencies and probable results 
of this stupendous act. Enough has already elapsed 
to demonstrate, that the author was scarcely more hap 
py in originating its principles, than in predicting its 
glorious consequences. 

The term for which Mr Jefferson had been elected to 
Congress, expired on the llth of August, 76; and he 
had communicated to the Convention of Virginia, in 

102 LIFE OF 

June preceding, his intention to decline a re-appoint 
ment. But his excuses were overruled by that body, 
and he was unanimously re-elected. On receiving intel 
ligence of the result, gratifying as it evidently was, he 
addressed a second letter to the chairman of the Con 
vention, in which he adhered to his original resolution, 
as follows : 

*I am sorry the situation of my domestic affairs renders 
it indispensably necessary, that I should solicit the substi 
tution of some other person here, in my room. The deli 
cacy of the House will not require me to enter minutely 
into the private causes which render this necessary. I 
trust they will be satisfied I would not have urged it 
again, were it not unavoidable. I shall with cheerful 
ness continue in duty here till the expiration of our year, 
by which time I hope it will be convenient for my suc 
cessor to attend. 

He continued in Congress until the 2d of September 
following, when his successor having arrived, he resign 
ed his seat and returned to Virginia. 

Thus closed the extraordinary career of Mr Jefferson 
in the Continental Congress. His actual attendance in 
that renowned Legislature, had been only about nine 
months ; and yet he had succeeded in impressing his 
character, in distinct and legible traces, upon the whole. 
The result is remarkable when considered in connection 
with his immature age. He had at this time attained 
only his thirty-third year, and was the youngest man 
but one in the session of 76. 

We have been restrained by our design, to the capital 
and distinguishing points in his course. The minor 
features of his service, while engaged in conducting the 
general administration, were proportioned to the same 
standard; but they are shorn of all interest by the 
overshadowing importance of his labors in the cause of 
the Revolution. In the multiplied transactions of a 
subordinate character which engaged the attention of 


the House, he sustained a corresponding reputation. 
To estimate the extent of his labors, it is only necessary 
to turn over the journals of Congress. In constituting 
the committees of importance it was the policy, in gen 
eral, to put Virginia at the head ; and the effect of this 
policy was to throw him into the situation of chairman, 
unusually often. No member probably served on more 
committees, or executed a greater amount of business, 
in proportion to his term of service, than he did. The 
union of great practical ability, with uncommon theo 
retical acuteness, is an anomaly in the constitution of 
man. It is proverbial however, that he displayed a 
promptitude no less remarkable in the ordinary details 
of legislation, than in the high concerns of an abstract 
and metaphysical nature, which were committed to him. 
The retirement of Mr Jefferson from a stage of ac 
tion on which he had performed so much, in the zenith 
of human popularity, and at the first crisis of Inde 
pendence, may appear unaccountable, with the lights al 
ready in the possession of the reader. The motives as 
signed by him, seem clearly disproportioned to the act, 
reasoning from all analogy applicable to the human cha 
racter at large ; and compel us to resort to more com 
petent sources of information, for a satisfactory solution 
of the mystery. The real and controlling motive of his 
resignation, but which his modesty would not permit 
him to urge to the Convention, is found inserted among 
his private * Memoranda. It is alike curious and hon 
orable. He says : The new government (in Virginia) 
was now organized ; a meeting of the Legislature was 
to be held in October, and I had been elected a mem 
ber by my county. / knew that our legislation, under 
the regal government, had many very vicious points which 
urgently required reformation ; and I thought I could be 
of more use in forwarding that work. I therefore retired 
from my seat in Congress, &c. 

The whole secret of the transaction is here unveiled, 

104 LIFE OF 

and is singularly in unison with the reigning attribute 
of his character. Those who recollect the irrepressible 
anxiety which he felt for Virginia, while in the crisis of 
her transition from the monarchical to the republican 
state, and the severe requisition which he made upon his 
own industry to secure the greatest practicable measure 
of freedom and liberality there, will be impressed with 
the admirable steadiness of purpose which influenced 
his present determination. The new government in the 
first province of free empire, was now fairly put in mo 
tion ; and he felt an invincible desire to participate in 
the measures of the first republican Legislature under 
it. Every thing, he conceived, depended upon the stamp 
of political integrity that should be impressed upon the 
new institutions of a State government, which was to 
set the example in the career of republican legislation, 
and which constituted so influential a member of the 
incipient confederacy. The principles of her present 
code were incompatible with the enjoyment of any con 
siderable benefits under the change of administration, 
and required a fundamental revision, and reduction to 
a consistent standard. The English common law, with 
its odious and despotic refinements of feudal origin, was 
in full force ; many of the British statutes, of the most 
obnoxious character, still existed ; whilst the Virginian 
statutes themselves were scarcely less aristocratic, and 
hostile to well-regulated liberty ; presenting together, 
an unwieldy and vicious mass of legislation, civil and 
religious, which, to the mind of the political reformer, 
presented stronger attractions than the scene in which 
he had just been distinguished by his labors. To have 
descended from an eminence in congress which placed 
him near the helm of the Revolution, to the subordinate 
station of representative to the municipal assembly, was 
an act of magnanimity, of which history furnishes few 
examples : but he was impressed with the necessity of 


carrying into action, the sound principles which he had 
meditated during the first effort of emancipation ; and 
now, he thought was a propitious moment to place 
them on a safe foundation. 

4 The spirit of the times, he said, may alter, will alter. 
Our rulers will become corrupt, our people careless. A 
single zealot may become a persecutor, and better 
men be his victims. It can never be too often repeated, 
that the time for fixing every essential right on a legal 
basis, is while our rulers are honest, and ourselves unit 
ed. From the conclusion of this war we shall be going 
down hill. It will not then be necessary to resort every 
moment to the people for support. They will be for 
gotten, therefore, and their rights disregarded. They 
will forget themselves, but in the sole faculty of making 
money, and will never think of uniting to effect a due 
respect for their rights. The shackles, therefore, which 
shall not be knocked off at the conclusion of this war, 
will remain on us long, will be made heavier and 
heavier, till our rights shall revive or expire in a con 

With the special design, therefore, of heading in per 
son the great work of political regeneration, which he 
had sketched for his country and for mankind, he early 
signified his determination to relinquish his station in 
the National Councils ; and was immediately thereupon 
elected to a seat in the Legislature of Virginia. 

Before following him into that body, however, the 
order of time requires us to notice a singular mark 
of distinction conferred on him by Congress. He had 
been absent from Philadelphia but a few days, before he 
received the appointment of Commissioner to France, 
with Dr Franklin, to negotiate treaties of alliance and 
commerce with that government. Silas Dean, then in 
France, acting as agent for procuring military supplies 
and for sounding the dispositions of the government 
towards us, was joined with them in the commission. 
The appointment was made on the last day of Septem- 

106 LIFE OF 

ber, 1776. Greater importance was attached to the 
successful issue of this mission, than to any other that 
had yet been meditated. The prevailing object of de 
claring Independence had been to secure the countenance 
and assistance of foreign powers ; and towards France, 
whose friendship and co-operation appeared most like 
ly to be obtained, the hopes of the country were undi- 
videdly directed. 

If any thing could mark more unequivocally the re 
spect of Congress for the abilities of Mr Jefferson by 
this appointment, it was the fact of their having asso 
ciated, a young man of thirty-three, with a venerable 
philosopher of seventy, then the most distinguished civil 
character in America. 

But the same reasons which influenced his retirement 
from Congress, induced him to decline accepting the 
foreign station also, as appears by the following letter 
addressed to the President of Congress. 

1 Williamsburg, October 11, 1776. 

* HONORABLE SIR, Your favor of the 30th, together 
with the resolutions of Congress, of the 26th ultimo, 
came safe to hand. It would argue great insensibility 
in me, could I receive with indifference, so confidential 
an appointment from your body. My thanks are a poor 
return for the partiality they have been pleased to en 
tertain for me. No cares for my own person, nor yet 
for my private affairs, would have induced one moment s 
hesitation to accept the charge. But circumstances 
very peculiar in the situation of my family, such as 
neither permit me to leave, nor to carry it, compel me 
to ask leave to decline a service so honorable, and, at 
the same time, so important to the American cause. 
The necessity under which I labor, and the conflict I 
have undergone for three days, during which I could not 
determine to dismiss your messenger, will, I hope, plead 
my pardon with Congress ; and I am sure there are too 
many of that body to whom they may with better hopes 
confide this charge, to leave them under a moment s 
difficulty in making a new choice. I am, sir, with the 


most sincere attachment to your honorable body, and 
the great cause they support, their and your most obe 
dient, humble servant. 

A more adequate and interesting revelation of his 
motives than is contained in the above letter, is found 
among his private Memoranda. After repeating the 
domestic causes already stated, he says : / saw, too, that 
the, laboring oar was really at home, where much was to be 
done, of the most permanent interest, in new-modelling our 
governments, and much to defend our fanes and firesides, 
from the desolations of an invading enemy, pressing on 
our country in every point. I declined, therefore, and 
Dr Lee was appointed in my place. 

108 LIFE OF 


MR JEFFERSON took his seat in the Legislature of 
Virginia, on the 7th of October, 1776, the opening day 
of the session. The first object of reform, which ar 
rested his attention, was the Judiciary System ; the or 
ganization of which, upon the broad basis of reason and 
common sense, struck him as a measure of the first 
importance. Besides being indispensable to meet the 
external revolution of the government, such a scheme of 
improvement was eminently calculated to gain popular 
favor for the new order of things, which should al 
ways be the first object of the reformer. 

On the llth of October, therefore, he obtained leave 
to bring in a Bill for the establishment of Courts of Jus 
tice. The proposition was referred to a committee, of 
which he was chairman. He drafted the ordinance ; 
submitted it to the committee, by whom it was approv 
ed ; and reported it to the House, where, after passing 
through the ordinary course, it was adopted with unan 

The system proposed by Mr Jefferson, was simple in 
its organization, and highly republican in its spirit. It 
is retained essentially unaltered in the existing code of 
Virginia. It established the model for succeeding Legis 
latures, in different States, as they successively pro 
ceeded to the same duty ; and its main features are ob 
servable in the Judiciary Systems of all our State go 
vernments at the present day. 


It divided the State into counties, and erected three 
distinct grades of Courts County, Superior, and Su 
preme. The quality and extent of jurisdiction, pre 
scribed to each grade, were similar to the prevailing di 
visions on that subject in the United States. The trial 
by jury was guarded with extreme circumspection. In 
all questions of fact and law combined, the reference to 
a jury was made imperative in the courts of law ; and 
the framer of the bill had designed to make it imperative 
also in the court of chancery ; but the provision was 
defeated in the House by the introduction of a discre 
tionary clause, on motion of Mr Pendleton, a gentleman 
of high English prejudices. The consequence has been, 
that no suiter will say to his judge, * Sir, I distrust you, 
give me a jury, juries are rarely, perhaps never, seen 
in that court, but when ordered by the chancellor of 
his own accord. 

On the following day, October 12, he brought forward 
his celebrated bill for the abolition of the Law of En 
tails. This was a cardinal measure, and a bold one for 
the political semi-barbarism of that age. Nor could a 
body of men have been easily selected, upon whose sen- 
sibilities the proposition would have grated with more 
harshness, than upon the aristocracy of a Virginia As 
sembly. The strong lines of discrimination impressed 
upon the society of Virginia, during the early stages of 
the settlement, are celebrated in history ; nor has the 
genius of her republican institutions been successful, 
as yet, in obliterating those artificial and dissocial 
distinctions, or in extinguishing the high aristocratical 
spirit which they engendered. In the earlier times of 
the colony, when lands were to be obtained for little or 
nothing, certain provident individuals procured large 
grants ; and, desirous of founding great families for 
themselves, settled them on their descendants in fee tail. 
The transmission of these estates from generation to 
generation, in the same name, raised up a distinct class 



of families, who being privileged by law in the per 
petuation of their wealth, were thus formed into a Pa 
trician order, distinguished by the splendor and luxury 
of their establishments. This order, having in process 
of time, engulphed the greater part of the landed pro 
perty, and with it, the political power of the province, re 
mained stationary, in general, on the grounds of their fore 
fathers ; for there was no emigration to the westward in 
those days. The Irish, who had gotten possession of 
the valley between the Blue-Ridge and the North Moun 
tain, formed a barrier over which none ventured to leap ; 
and their manners presented no attractions to the opu 
lent lowlanders to settle among them. 

* In such a state of things, says Mr Jefferson, scarce 
ly admitting any change of station, society would settle 
itself down into several strata, separated by no marked 
lines, but shading off imperceptibly from top to bottom, 
nothing disturbing the order of their repose. There 
were, then, first aristocrats, composed of the great land 
holders who had seated themselves below tide water on 
the main rivers, and lived in a style of luxury and ex 
travagance, insupportable by the other inhabitants, and 
which indeed ended, in several instances, in the ruin of 
their own fortunes. Next to these were what may be 
called half breeds ; the descendants of the younger sons 
and daughters of the aristocrats, who inherited the pride 
of their ancestors without their wealth. Then came the 
pretenders, men who from vanity or the impulse of grow 
ing wealth, or from that enterprize which is natural to 
talents, sought to detach themselves from the plebeian 
ranks, to which they properly belonged, and imitated at 
some distance, the manners and habits of the great. 
Next to these, were a solid and independent yeomanry, 
looking askance at those above, yet not venturing to jos 
tle them. And last and lowest, afccuhtm of beings call 
ed overseers, the most abject, degraded, unprincipled 
race ; always cap in hand to the dons who employed 
them, and furnishing materials for the exercise of their 
pride, insolence, and spirit of domination. 


By birth and fortune, Mr Jefferson belonged to the 
aristocracy ; but his intellectual habits made him revolt 
at the indoience and voluptuousness which marked the 
lives of that order ; and his political principles attached 
him, by early and indissoluble sympathies, to the solid 
and independent yeomanry. 

Those who labor in the earth, he early declared, 
are the chosen people of God, if ever he had a chosen 
people, whose breasts he has made his peculir deposit 
for substantial and genuine virtue. It is the focus in 
which he keeps alive that sacred fire, which otherwise 
might escape from the face of the earth. Corruption of 
morals in the mass of cultivators, is a phenomenon of 
which no age nor nation has furnished an example. It 
is the mark set on those, who, not looking up to heaven, 
to their own soil and industry, as does the husbandman, 
for their subsistence, depend for it on the casualties and 
caprice of customers. Dependence begets subservience 
and venality, suffocates the germ of virtue, and prepares 
fit tools for the designs of ambition. This^ the natural 
progress and consequence of the arts, has sometimes, 
perhaps, been retarded by accidental circumstances ; 
but, generally speaking, the proportion, which the ag 
gregate of the other classes of citizens bears, in any 
State, to that of its husbandmen, is the proportion of its 
unsound to its healthy parts, and is a good enough ba 
rometer whereby to measure its degree of corruption. 

Impressed with these strong, unsophisticated views, he 
beheld with an incessant desire of reformation, the anti- 
republican features which characterized the social state 
of Virginia. The Law of Entails was the key-stone of 
this pernicious superstructure. Besides locking up the 
lands of the Commonwealth in the hands of a fixed no 
bility, and thereby discouraging immigration, it legiti 
mated the mastery of might over right, and in the most 
effectual forms. It was a weapon which the law itself 
superadded to the multitude of natural means, to assist 
the strong in beating down and trampling upon the 
weak. It enabled the original and opulent proprietors 

112 LIFE OP 

of the < Ancient Dominion, or their descendants, to 
perpetuate the supremacy of wealth over talents and 
virtue, and to entail upon society forever, the most dis 
astrous corruptions of monarchy. Creditors were de 
frauded of their honest debts ; and bona fide purchasers 
were, in many instances, either deprived of their title 
altogether, or compelled to resort to courts of justice to 
substantiate it against innumerable entails. The aboli 
tion of this prerogative, therefore, was rightly deemed 
by Mr Jefferson a first measure in republicanizing the 
institutions, manners and customs of his country. 

* To annul this privilege, says he, 4 and instead of an 
aristocracy of wealth, of more harm and danger, than 
benefit to society, to make an opening for the aristoc 
racy of virtue and talent, which nature has wisely pro 
vided for the direction of the interests of society, and 
scattered with equal hand through all its conditions, was 
deemed essential to a well ordered republic. To effect 
it, no violence was necessary, no deprivation of natural 
right, but rather an enlargement of it, by a repeal of the 
law. For this would authorize the present holder to di 
vide the property among his children, equally, as his af 
fections were divided; and would place them, by natural 
generation, on the level of their fellow citizens. 

The repeal was resisted, with desperation, by the 
sturdy and inexorable barons of the Legislature. The 
opposition was headed by Edmund Pendleton, speaker 
of the House, a gentleman of great capacity, but zeal 
ously attached to ancient establishments. He had been 
under the protection of the lordly John Robinson, the 
acknowledged leader of the landed aristocracy for half 
a century; and the mantle of his patron had fallen upon 
him&elf. His personal influence was great, and his pow 
ers as a debater were of a high order. For dexterity 
of address, fertility of resource, and parliamentary man 
agement, he was without a rival. With such a champi 
on, some idea may be formed of the character and force 


of the opposition. But their resistance was unavailing. 
Finding they could not overthrow the general principle 
of the bill, they took their stand on an amendment which 
they proposed instead of absolute abolition, to permit 
the tenant in tail to convey in fee simple, if he chose it : 
and they were within a few votes of saving so much of 
the old law. But after a severe contest, the bill finally 
passed for entire abolition ; and thus, to use the language 
of the author, was broken up the hereditary and high 
handed aristocracy, which, by accumulating immense 
masses of property in single lines of family, had divided 
our country into two distinct orders, of nobles and ple 
beians. The following short preamble introduces the 

* Whereas, the perpetuation of property in certain 
families, by means of gifts made to them in fee taille, is 
contrary to good policy, tends to deceive fair traders, 
who give credit on the visible possession of such estates, 
discourages the holders thereof from taking care and 
improving the same, and sometimes does injury to the 
morals of youth, by rendering them independent of, and 
disobedient to their parents ; and whereas the former 
method of docking such estates taille, by special act of 
Assembly, formed for every particular case, employed 
very much of the time of the legislature, and the same, 
as well as the method of defeating such estates when of 
small value, was burthensome to the public, and also to 
individuals : 

i Be it therefore enacted, <fcc. ,__ 

The next prominent heresy in the political system of 
Virginia, which encountered the glance of the reformer, 
was her religious establishment. This institution he 
considered one of the most preposterous and deleterious 
remnants of the repudiated monarchy ; but his advances 
on this subject, in all its breadth and bearings, had left 
the rest of mankind, with few exceptions, far in the rear. 

The church establishment of Virginia was of the 
Episcopal order, coeval with its first colonization, and 

114 LIFE OF 

in all respects a scion of the parent hierarchy. The first 
settlers of the colony were Englishmen, loyal subjects to 
their king and church ; and the grant of Sir Walter 
Raleigh contained an express proviso, that their laws 
should riot be against the true Christian faith, now pro 
fessed in the church of England. They emigrated 
from the bosom of the mother church, at a point of time 
when it was flushed with complete victory over the re 
ligious of all other persuasions. Possessed, as they be 
came, of the powers of making, administering and ex 
ecuting the laws, they showed equal intolerance in this 
colony, with their Presbyterian brethren, who had em 
igrated to the northern governments. As soon as the 
state of the colony admitted, it was divided into parishes, 
in each of which was installed a minister of the Angli 
can church, endowed with a fixed salary in tobacco, a 
glebe house and land, with other appendages. To meet 
these expenses, all the inhabitants of the parish were 
assessed, whether they were, or were not, members of the 
established church. The integrity of the institution was 
guarded by the severest penalties against schismatics. 
In addition to the common law provisions against heresy, 
making it a capital offence punishable by burning, their 
own statuary enactments were scarcely less flagitious. 
Several acts of the Virginia Assembly had made it penal 
in parents to refuse to have their children baptised ; had 
prohibited the unlawful assembling of Quakers ; had 
made it penal for any master of a vessel to bring a 
Quaker into the State ; had ordered those already there, 
and such as should come thereafter, to be imprisoned 
till they should abjure the country ; prescribed a milder 
punishment for the first and second return, but death 
for the third ; had inhibited all persons from suffering 
their meetings in or near their houses, entertaining them 
individually, or disseminating books which supported 
their tenets. And so late as 1705, an act of assembly 


was passed declaring, if any person, brought up in the 
Christian religion, denied the being of a God, or the 
Trinity, or asserted there were more Gods than one, or 
denied the Christian religion to be true, or the scriptures 
to be of divine authority, he was punishable on the first 
offence, by incapacity to hold any office or employment, \ 
ecclesiastical, civil, or military ; on the second, by dis 
ability to sue, to take any gift or legacy, to be guardian, I 
executor, or administrator, and by three years imprison 
ment without bail. 

Such is an epitome of the religious slavery which ex 
isted at this time in Virginia ; and if no executions had 
taken place, as in New England, it was not owing to the 
moderation of the church, or spirit of the legislature, 
as may be inferred from the laws themselves ; but to his 
torical circumstances which have not been handed down 
to us. The convention which sat in May, 76, in their 
Declaration of Rights, had indeed proclaimed it to be a 
truth, and a natural right, that the exercise of religion 
should be free ; * but when they proceeded, says Mr 
Jefferson, to form on that declaration, the ordinance 
of government, instead of taking up every principle de 
clared in the Bill of Rights, and guarding it by legisla 
tive sanction, they passed over that which asserted our 
religious rights, leaving them as they found them. 
The whole catalogue of spiritual oppressions, therefore, 
was reserved for himself to wipe away ; to effect which, 
was an enterprise of a more desperate character than 
any he had ever undertaken. The excitement of the 
revolution was a powerful auxiliary to him ; but the 
state of the country, in general, exhibited the strange 
phenomenon of a people devoting their lives and for 
tunes for the recovery of their civil freedom, and yet 
clinging to a mental tyranny tenfold more presumptuous 
and paralyzing. Other moral causes still more effica 
cious, combined with the spirit of the revolution to assist 

116 LIFE OF 

him in the arduous labor of spiritual disenchantment. 
These causes are summarily stated by himself. 

1 In process of time, however, other sectarisms were 
introduced, chiefly of the Presbyterian family ; and the 
established clergy, secure for life in their glebes and sal 
aries, adding to these generally, the emoluments of a 
classical school, found employment enough in their farms 
and school rooms, for the rest of the week, and devoted 
Sunday only to the edification of their flock, by service, 
and a sermon at their parish church. Their other pas 
toral functions were little attended to. Against this in 
activity, the zeal and industry of sectarian preachers had 
an open and undisputed field ; and by the time of the 
revolution, a majority of the inhabitants had become 
dissenters from the established church, but were still 
obliged to pay contributions to support the pastors of 
the minority. This unrighteous compulsion, to maintain 
teachers of what they deemed religious errors, was grie 
vously felt during the regal government, and without a 
hope of relief. But the first republican legislature, 
which met in 76, was crowded with petitions to abolish 
this spiritual tyranny. 

Encouraged by the rising spirit of determination among 
the dissenters, and relieved from the complicated re 
straints which externally barred all improvement under 
the monarchy, he commenced his attack on the then 
dominant religion, early in the session to wit, on the 
llth of October. This bold movement, supported by 
the incessant and well directed appeals of the petition 
ers, roused the privileged clergy from their protracted 
inertness. Counter memorials, accordingly, poured in 
from every quarter, soliciting a continuance of the ec 
clesiastical polity upon principles of justice, wisdom and 
expediency. They represented that the repeal of the 
church establishment would be an ex post facto enact 
ment, and a violation of the public faith ; that the Epis 
copal clergy had entered upon their endowments with 
the plighted obligation of the government to continue 


them therein during life, or good behavior, as a compen 
sation for their services ; and that they held them by a 
tenure as sacred as that by which any man has secured 
to him his private property ; that the Episcopalians did 
not mean to encroach on the religious rights of any sect 
of men, yet they conceived the existing institution, con 
secrated by the practice of so many years, as eminently 
conducive to the peace and happiness of the State ; that 
much confusion, and probably civil commotions would 
attend the proposed change ; and finally, that an appeal 
should be made for the decision of so important a ques 
tion, to the sentiments and wishes of the people at large. 
The petitions, on the other hand, expatiated upon the 
theme of liberty ; and blended with unanswerable de 
monstrations of right and reason, the expostulations of 
bereaved freemen. 

The subject was referred to the committee of the 
whole house on the state of the country, with the multi 
tude of appertaining memorials arid remonstrances. 
These, says Mr Jefferson in 1820, brought on the 
severest contests in which I have ever been engaged. 
Our great opponents were Mr Pendleton and Robert 
Carter Nicholas; honest men, but zealous churchmen. 
The majority of the legislature, unfortunately, were of 
the same stamp, which forced on Mr Jefferson an alter 
ation in the mode of attack. Finding he could not main 
tain the ground on which he set out, he varied his po 
sition from absolute to partial abolition ; and after vehe 
ment contests in the committee, almost daily, from the 
llth of October to the 5th of December, he prevailed 
so far only as to repeal the laws which rendered the 
maintenance of any religious opinions criminal, the for 
bearance of repairing to church, or the exercise of any 
mode of worship. By the same act also, he secured a 
provision exempting dissenters from contributions to the 
support of the established church, and suspending until 
the next session only, levies on the members of the 



church for the salaries of their own incumbents. But 
his opponents inserted a declaratory saving, that religious 
assemblies ought to be regulated, and that provision 
ought to be made for continuing the succession of the 
clergy and superintending their conduct. They also 
succeeded in incorporating an express reservation of the 
ultimate question, Whether a general assessment 
should not be established by law on every one, to support 
the pastor of his choice ; or whether all should be left 
to free and voluntary contributions. 

This question, the last prop of the tottering hierarchy, 
reduced the struggle to one of pure principle. The par 
ticular object of the dissenters being secured, they de 
serted the volunteer champion of their cause, and went 
over in a body to the advocates of a general assessment. 
This step showed them incapable of religious liberty up 
on an expansive scale, or broader than their own inter 
ests as schismatics. The defection of the dissenters, 
painful as it was, only stimulated his desire for total ab 
olition, as it developed more palpably, the evidences of 
its necessity. He remained unshaken at his post ; and 
brought on the reserved question, at every session for 
three years afterwards, during which time, he could only 
obtain a suspension of the levies from year to year, until 
the session of 79 when by his unwearied exertions, the 
question was carried definitively against a general as 
sessment, and the establishment of the Anglican church 
entirely overthrown. 

Thus was the cause of religious liberty astonishingly 
^advanced. But still the work was incomplete. Statu 
tory oppressions were disannulled ; but those which 
existed at the common law, continued in force ; nor were 
the advantages already gained, secured by any positive 
legislative sanction. The proceedings hitherto upon the 
subject, were of a belligerent character ; and although 
crowned with success, were regarded by the mover in 
great part, as an experiment upon public opinion, l in- 


dicative, as he expressed it, of the general pulse of re 
formation. The barrier subsequently erected, in perpetu 
al security of the rights of which he procured the recog 
nition, forms the conclusion of this impressive drama. 
We allude to his celebrated Religious Freedom Bill, 
universally regarded as one of the chief bulwarks of hu 
man rights. As it constitutes a part of his general code 
of revisal, the merits of this bill will be more particular 
ly considered, when we come to develope the features of 
that great and useful labor. 

The next prominent corruption of the monarchy, 
which Mr Jefferson regarded as fatally inconsistent with 
the republican change, was the existence and the practice 
of slavery. We have already seen him on two occasions, 
exerting his talents, and raising his voice, in awful ad 
monition, against the continuance of this atrocious and 
wide spread injustice. The result of his former attempt 
in the Legislature, which was based upon manumission, 
or the permission to emancipate, had convinced him of 
the utter impracticability of maintaining that ground ; 
and of the necessity of attacking the evil in such a mode 
as should militate less diametrically against the interests 
and prejudices of the reigning population. He took his 
stand, therefore, upon a proposition to abolish the exe 
crable commerce in slaves ; which by stopping importa 
tion, would arrest the increase of the evil, and diminish 
the obstacles to eventual eradication. But the business 
of the war pressing heavily upon the Legislature, the sub 
ject was not acted upon definitively, until the session of 
78, when the bill was carried without opposition, and 
the slave trade triumphantly abolished in Virginia. The 
importance of this measure, and the grounds upon which 
the author may contest the merit of priority with the 
world, in the benevolent enterprise of African emanci 
pation, will be more particularly explained at that period 
of his history. 

Such were some of the efforts in legislation, with which 

120 LIFE OP 

Mr Jefferson commenced the process of republicanizing 
the institutions of America, in the first State legislature 
that was organized after the dissolution of the monarchy. 
They were all, it will be perceived, of an elementary 
character, and highly democratic in their object and ten 
dency. But still, the interesting work was only begun. 
The plan originally proposed to himself on determining 
to leave the floor of Congress, comprehended the re 
casting into other republican forms, the anciently estab 
lished and generally received basis of civil government. 

So far, says he, in his brief notes of these transactions, 
we were proceeding in the details of reformation only ; 
selecting points of legislation, prominent in character 
and principle, urgent, and indicative of the strength of 
the general pulse of reformation. When 1 left congress 
in 76, it was in the persuasion, that our whole code 
must be reviewed, adapted to our republican form of 
government; and now, that we had no negatives of 
councils, governors and kings to restrain us from doing 
right, that it should be corrected in all its parts, with a 
single eye to reason and the good of those for whose 
government it was framed. 

In pursuance of his original design, therefore, he now 
brought forward a proposition which stands recorded in 
the statute books of Virginia, in the following terms. 

Whereas, on the late change which hath of neces 
sity been introduced into the form of government in 
this country, it is become also necessary to make cor 
responding changes in the laws heretofore in force ; 
many of which are inapplicable to the powers of go 
vernment as now organized, others are founded on prin 
ciples heterogeneous to the republican spirit ; others, 
which long before such change, had been oppressive to 
the people, could yet never be repealed while the regal 
power continued ; and others, having taken their origin 
while our ancestors remained in Britain, are not so well 
adapted to our present circumstances of time and place ; 
and it is also necessary to introduce certain other laws, 
which, though proved by the experience of other States 


to be friendly to liberty and the rights of mankind, we 
have not heretofore been permitted to adopt ; and where 
as a work of such magnitude, labor, and difficulty, may 
not be effected during the short and busy term of a ses 
sion of assembly : 

4 Be it therefore enacted, by the General Assembly of 
the Commonwealth of Virginia, and it is hereby enacted 
by the authority of the same, That a committee, to 
consist of five persons, shall be appointed by joint bal 
lot of both houses, (three of whom to be a quorum,) 
who shall have full power and authority to revise, alter, 
amend, repeal, or introduce all or any of the said laws, 
to form the same into bills, and report them to the next 
meeting of the General Assembly. 1 

The resolution was passed on the 24th of October, 
76, and on the 5th of November, Mr Jefferson, as 
chairman, was associated in a commission with Edmund 
Pendleton, George Wythe, George Mason and Thomas 
Ludwell Lee, to execute the contemplated revisal. The 
commissioners were elected by a joint ballot of both 
houses ; and the choice resulted in the selection of an 
assemblage of characters, which united the first order 
of capacity, intelligence, and legal research, to the 
rankest revolutionary principles. Suitable provisions 
were added, to render the execution of a work of such 
magnitude and difficulty, as easy and expeditious as 
practicable ; and such was the importance attached to 
the result of their labors, that the assembly excused 
Mr Wythe from his attendance in Congress, to secure 
his undivided co-operation. Having accepted the ar 
duous charge, the committee of revisors immediately 
came to an agreement to meet at Fredericksburg, in 
January ensuing, to settle the plan of operation and to 
distribute the work. The foundation was thus laid for 
the great republican lawgiver to pursue his system of re 
form, so auspiciously commenced, in all the latitude of 
his long cherished and well expressed purpose, with 
a single eye to reason, and the good of mankind. 



In the midst of this brisk action of the republican ad 
ministration, an irregularity occurred which, had it been 
permitted to prevail, would have been a standing evi 
dence of the incapacity of man for self-government. 
The autumn of 76, was one of the most distressing 
periods of the revolution. The courage of the country 
seemed to be breaking down. The fortitude of the 
Virginia legislature fell for a season ; and in a moment 
of terror and despondency, the frantic project was se 
riously meditated of creating a Dictator, invested with 
every power, legislative, executive and judiciary, civil 
and military, of life and of death. The scheme origi 
nated with an anti-republican portion of the House, and 
excited a tempest of altercation, threatening a violent 
dissolution. A discordancy of political views was im 
mediately developed, which before was thought impossi 
ble in that legislature. The republican and the mo 
narchist stood unveiled, as if by the power of magic, 
and such was the spirit of mutual hostility, that they 
walked the streets on different sides. It was on this 
occasion, that Col. Archibald Cary, mover of the celebra- 
tated resolutions of Independence, and then Speaker of 
the Senate, manifested a patriotic sternness which should 
place him in history by the side of Cato and Brutus.* 
Meeting Col. Syme, the step-brother of Patrick Henry, 
in the lobby of the House during the agitation, he ac 
costed him with great fierceness, in the following terms : 
I am told that your brother wishes to be dictator : 
tell him from me, that the day of his appointment, shall 
be the day of his death, for he shall feel my dagger 
in his heart, before the sun set of that day. t The emo 
tions excited in the mind of Mr Jefferson, who was 

* Girardin, p. 192. 

t Although it was generally supposed that Mr Henry, then go 
vernor of the State, was the person in view for the dictatorship, 
yet there is no evidence that he was implicated in the scheme him 
self, or had any knowledge of it. 


eminently instrumental in crushing the parricidal pro 
ject, may be inferred from that nervous and able develop 
ment of its nature and tendency, which appeared soon 
after this event. The following is an extract. 

One, who entered into this contest, from a pure love 
of liberty, and a sense of injured rights, who determined 
to make every sacrifice, and to meet every danger, for 
the re-establishment of those rights, on a firm basis, who 
did not mean to expend his blood and substance, for the 
wretched purpose of changing this master for that, but 
to place the powers of governing him, in a plurality of 
hands of his own choice, so that the corrupt will of no 
one man, might in future oppress him, must stand con 
founded and dismayed, when he is told, that a consider 
able portion of that plurality, had meditated the surren 
der of them, into a single hand, and in lieu of a limited 
monarchy, to deliver him over .to a despotic one! How 
must he find his efforts and sacrifices abused and baffled, 
if he may still, by a single vote, be laid prostrate at the 
feet of one man 1 In God s name, from whence have 
they derived this power ? Is it from our ancient laws 1 
None such can be produced. Is it from any principle 
in our new constitution, expressed or implied ? Every 
lineament of that, expressed or implied, is in full oppo 
sition to it. Its fundamental principle is, that the State 
shall be governed as a commonwealth. It provides a 
republican organization, proscribes under the name of 
prerogative, the exercise of all powers undefined by the 
laws ; places on this basis, the whole system of our laws ; 
and by consolidating them together, chooses that they 
should be left to stand or fall together, never providing 
for any circumstances, nor admitting that such could 
arise, wherein either should be suspended ; no, not for a 
moment. Our ancient laws expressly declare, that those 
who are but delegates themselves, shall not delegate to 
others, powers which require judgment and integrity in 
their exercise. Or was this proposition moved, on a sup 
posed right in the movers of abandoning their posts in a 
moment of distress 1 The same laws forbid the aban 
donment of that post, even on ordinary occasions ; and 

124 LIFE OF 

much more a transfer of their powers into other hands, 
and other forms, without consulting the people. They 
never admit the idea, that these, like sheep or cattle, 
may be given from hand to hand, without an appeal to 
their own will. Was it from the necessity of the case ? 
Necessities which dissolve a government, do not convey 
its authority to an oligarchy or a monarchy. They 
throw back, into the hands of the people, the powers 
they had delegated, and leave them as individuals to shift 
for themselves. A leader may offer, but not impose 
himself, nor be imposed on them. Much less can their 
necks be submitted to his sword, their breath to be held 
at his will, or caprice. The necessity which should op 
erate these tremendous effects, should at least be palpa 
ble and irresistible. * * * In this State alone, did 
there exist so little virtue, that fear was to be fixed in 
the hearts of the people, to become the motive of their 
exertions, and the principle of their government 1 The 
very thought alone, was treason against the people ; was 
treason against mankind in general ; riveting for ever 
the chains which bow down their necks, by giving to 
their oppressors a proof, which they would have trump 
eted through the universe, of the imbecility of republi 
can government, in times of pressing danger, to shield 
them from harm. Those who assume the right of giv 
ing away the reins of government in any case, must be 
sure that the herd, whom they hand on to the rods and 
hatchet of the dictator, will lay their heads on the block, 
when he shall nod to them. But if our assemblies sup 
posed such a resignation in the people, I hope they mis 
took their character. I am of opinion, that the govern 
ment, instead of being braced and invigorated for great 
er exertions, under their difficulties, w r ould have been 
thrown back upon the bungling machinery of county 
committees for administration, till a convention could 
have been called, and its wheels again set into regular mo 
tion. What a cruel moment was this, for creating such 
an embarrassment, for putting to the proof, the attach 
ment of our countrymen to republican government? 

On the 13th of January, 1777, the committee appoint 
ed to revise the laws, assembled at Fredericksburg to 


settle the general principles of execution, and to dis 
tribute the labor. In relation to the first business of the 
consultation, the primary question was, * whether they 
should propose to abolish the whole existing system of 
laws, and prepare a new and complete Institute, or pre 
serve the general system, and only modify it to the pre 
sent state of things. Mr Pendleton, contrary to his 
usual disposition in favor of ancient things, was for the 
former proposition, in -which he was joined by Mr Lee. 
To this it was objected by Mr Jefferson, that to abro 
gate the whole system would be a bold measure, and 
probably far beyond the views of the legislature ; that they 
had been in the practice of revising from time to time, the 
laws of the colony, omitting the expired, the repealed, 
and the obsolete, amending only those retained, and that 
they probably now intended to do the same, only inclu 
ding the British statutes as well as our own ; that to 
compose a new institute, like those of Justinian and 
Bracton, or that of Blackstone, which was the model 
proposed by Mr Pendleton, would be an arduous under 
taking, of vast research, of great consideration and 
judgment ; and when reduced to a text, from the imper 
fection of human language would become a subject of 
question and chicanery, until settled by repeated adjudi 
cations; that this would involve us for ages in litigation, 
and render property uncertain, until like the statutes of 
old, every word had been tried and settled by numerous 
decisions, and by new volumes of reports and commen 
taries ; and, to be systematical, must be the work of one 
hand. This last was the opinion also of Mr Wythe 
and Mr Mason, and was consequently adopted as the 
rule. They then proceeded to the distribution of the la 
bor; upon which, Mr Mason excused himself, as, being 
no lawyer, he felt himself unqualified to participate in 
the execution of the work. Mr Lee excused himself 
on the same ground. The whole undertaking conse 
quently, devolved on Mr Jefferson, Mr Pendieton, and 

126 LIFE OF 

Mr "Wythe, who divided it among themselves in the fol 
lowing manner: The whole common law, and the 
statutes to the 4th James I when their separate leg 
islature was established were assigned to Mr Jeffer 
son ; the British statutes from that period to the present 
day, to Mr Wythe ; and the Virginia laws to Mr Pen- 
dleton. % 

As the law of descents and the criminal law fell 
within the portion assigned to Mr Jefferson, in both of 
which he designed to introduce certain fundamental 
changes, he submitted his intentions to the committee for 
their approbation. First, with respect to descents, he 
proposed to abolish the law of primogeniture, and to 
1 make real estate heritable in equal partition to the next 
jof kin, as personal property was, by the statute of dis 
tribution. Mr Pen die ton objected to the plan, and in 
sisted upon preserving the right of primogeniture ; but 
finding he could not maintain the whole, he proposed to 
give a double portion to the elder son. In reply, Mr 
Jefferson observed, that if the elder son could eat 
twice as much, or do double work, it might be a natural 
evidence of his right to a double portion ; but being on 
a par, in his powers and wants, with his brothers and 
sisters, he should be on a par also in the partition of the 
patrimony. The argument was conclusive; and the 
other members of the committee concurring with him, 
the principle was adopted. 

On the subject of the criminal law he proposed as a 
fundamental rule, that the punishment of death should 
be abolished in all cases, except for treason and murder. 
The humanity of this proposition is illustrated by the 
fact, that at this time the penal code of Great Britain 
comprehended more than two hundred offences, besides 
treason and murder, punishable by hanging ; many of 
which were of so venial a nature as scarcely to deserve 
punishment. The innovation recommended would sweep 
from the parent code all its cruel and sanguinary fea- 


tures, without impairing its energy, as modern experi 
ence has proved, and present an example to mankind of 
wise and philanthropic legislation, which of itself would 
be enough to immortalize the revolution. The propo 
sition was approved by the committee ; and for all felo 
nies under treason and murder, it was agreed to substitute 
in the room of capital punishment, hard labor in the pub 
lic works, and in some cases the lex talionis^ or law of re 
taliation. With the last mentioned substitute, Mr Jeffer 
son was dissatisfied, but acquiesced in the decision of the 
board. * How this revolting principle, says he, came 
to obtain our approbation, I do not remember. There 
remained, indeed, in our laws, a vestige of it, in a single 
case of a slave. It was the English law, in the time of 
the Anglo-Saxons, copied probably from the Hebrew law 
of "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth," and it 
was the law of several ancient people ; but the modern 
mind had left it far in the rear of its advances. Having 
decided upon these general principles, as the basis of re 
vision, they repaired to their respective abodes to accom 
plish the magnificent design. 

During the years 1777 and 8, the anxieties and agita 
tions of the war weighed so heavily and constantly upon 
the legislature, that little attention could be spared to 
advancing the progress of political reform. Mr Jefferson 
continued a member, but in obedience to more pressing 
engagements, suspended in great part the ruling purpose 
of his mind, and buried himself in the external concerns 
of revolution. In all the practical details of legislation 
he contributed his full quota of service ; but they are too 
voluminous for incorporation into this work. Not a mo 
ment was passed unemployed. Every interval which 
could be safely spared from his duties in the legislature, 
was devoted to the preparation of the revised code of 
Virginia, or to a vigilant circumspection of the national 

The following letter to Dr Franklin, in Paris, evinces 

128 LIFE OF 

the satisfaction with which he contemplated the esta 
blishment of republicanism in his native State, as well 
as the anxiety and zeal which he carried into every de 
partment of the public service. It is the fourth in date 
of his published correspondence. 

* Virginia, August 13, 1777. 

HONORABLE SIR, I forbear to write you news, as 
the time of Mr Shore s departure being uncertain, it 
might be old before you receive it, and he can, in per 
son, possess you of all we have. With respect to the 
State of Virginia, in particular, the people seem to have 
laid aside the monarchical, and taken up the republican 
government, with as much ease as would have attended 
their throwing off an old, and putting on a new suit of 
clothes. Not a single throe has attended this important 
transformation. A half dozen aristocratical gentlemen, 
agonizing under the loss of pre-eminence, have some 
times ventured their sarcasms on our political metamor 
phosis. They have been thought fitter objects of pity 
than of punishment. We are at present in the complete 
and quiet exercise of well organized government, saye 
only that our courts of justice do not open till the fall. 
I think nothing can bring the security of our continent 
and its cause into danger, if we can support the credit 
of our paper. To do that, I apprehend one or two steps 
must be taken. Either to procure free trade by alliance 
with some naval power able to protect it ; or, if we find 
there is no prospect of that, to shut our ports totally to 
all the world, and turn our colonies into manufactories. 
The former would be most eligible, because most con 
formable to the habits and wishes of our people. Were 
the British court to return to their senses in time to 
seize the little advantage which still remains within their 
reach from this quarter, I judge that, on acknowledging 
our absolute independence and sovereignty, a commer 
cial treaty beneficial to them, and perhaps even a league 
of mutual offence and defence, might, not seeing the 
expense or consequences of such a measure, be approved 
by our people, if nothing in the mean time, done on 
your part, should prevent it. But they will continue to 
grasp at their desperate sovereignty, till every benefit 


short of that is forever out of their reach. I wish my 
domestic situation had rendered it possible for me to 
join you in the very honorable charge confided to you. 
Residence in a polite court, society of literati of the 
first order, a just cause and an approving God, will add 
length to a life for which all men pray, and none more 
than your most obedient and humble servant. 

In addition to the military operations which engaged 
the attention of the legislature, two important transac 
tions of a civil character, in both of which Mr Jefferson 
took the lead, distinguished the autumnal session of 
1777. These were, the ratification of the Articles of 
Confederation and Perpetual Union, proposed by Con 
gress on the 17th of November, 76 ; and the adoption 
of a plan to dispose of the unappropriated lands of Vir 
ginia on the western waters, the avails of which were to 
be applied to the creation of a sinking fund in aid of 
the taxes, for discharging the public debt. A loan office 
was established, in which the waste lands were register 
ed, and sold from time to time on moderate terms, for 
the benefit of the State. In the then posture of affairs 
no measure could have been proposed, more directly and 
widely beneficial ; it opened an incalculable resource for 
the support of the public credit. 

The May session of 1778, also, notwithstanding the 
exigencies of the war, was distinguished by a civil trans 
action, which is intimately connected with the reputation 
of Mr Jefferson, and the honor of our country, name 
ly the abolition of the Slave Trade. The bill for this 
purpose was introduced by him in October 76, but was 
not acted upon finally until the present session, when a 
more particular illustration of its merits was promised, 
by a historical comparison of the efforts of other nations. 
The British empire has claimed the honor of having set 
the example of the renunciation of this diabolical traf 
fic ; and Lord Castlereagh declared in the House of 
Commons, on the 9th of February, 1818, that on the 

130 LIFE OP 

subject of making the slave trade punishable by law, 
Great Britain had led the way. A slight recurrence to 
dates will unfold the historical truth on this point. 

In the year 1791, Mr Wilberforce, who is considered 
the father of African abolition in England, made his first 
grand motion to that effect in the house of Commons. 
After a vehement and protracted debate, in the course 
of which Mr Fox said, that * if the house did not, by 
their vote, mark to all mankind their abhorrence of a 
practice so savage, so enormous, so repugnant to all 
laws, human and divine, they would consign their char 
acter to eternal infamy, the motion was lost by a con 
siderable majority. The ensuing year, he renewed his 
proposition with unabated ardor, and again it was reject 
ed by the house. They nevertheless manifested some 
relaxation in their repugnance to the general principle, 
by voting a gradual abolition, the same year ; but the 
House of Lords refused to concur. The same vote was 
again carried in 1794, in commons, by a very thin 
house ; but lost with the peers, by a majority of forty- 
five to four. Similar results attended the indefatigable 
exertions of the abolitionists, for fourteen years ; and it 
was not until the 25th of March, 1807, that England 
consented to renounce the slave trade, by a law which 
enacted that no vessels should clear out for slaves from 
any port within the British dominions after the 1st of 
May, 1807 ; and that no slave should be landed in the 
colonies after the first of March, 1808. On the 16th 
of March, 1792, Denmark promulgated a law, which 
interdicted the slave trade on the part of Danish sub 
jects after the commencement of the year 1803 ; and 
which prescribed that all importations of slaves into the 
Danish dominions should cease at the same period. 
Sweden, who had never authorized the traffic, consent 
ed to its prohibition in 1813 ; and the King of the Neth 
erlands in 1814. In France, Bonaparte interdicted it 
immediately on his return from Elba, in 1815. In 1816, 


Spain stipulated in a treaty with England, to renounce 
the trade entirely after the 30th of March, 1820, in con 
sideration of the sum of four hundred thousand pounds 
sterling. About the same time also, a treaty was con 
cluded by the same power with Portugal, in which she 
required the period of eight years to complete the work 
of abolition, together with certain material changes in 
the commercial relations of the two countries.* 

From the foregoing statement, it appears, that the 
honor of having set the example in the magnanimous 
work of African abolition, belongs clearly and absolute 
ly to America. That Virginia was the first sovereign j 
and independent State, herself a slave-holding commu 
nity, which renounced the nefarious commerce ; that she \ 
preceded Great Britain twenty-nine years, and the other \ 
principal slave-dealing powers in Europe, except Den 
mark, more than thirty-five years ; and that among the I 
multitude of statesmen and philanthropists, whose prais 
es have been deservedly emblazoned for their splendid 
successes in this species of legislation, the merit of pri 
ority and of self-denying patriotism, attaches incontesti- 
bly to Mr Jefferson. The bill which he submitted to 
the legislature, and which finally received their sanc 
tion, prohibited under heavy penalties, the introduction 
of any. slave into Virginia, by land or by water; and de 
clared that every slave imported contrary thereto, should 
be immediately free ; excepting such as might belong 
to persons emigrating from the other States, or be claim 
ed by discount, devise, or marriage, or be at that time 
the actual property of any citizen of the commonwealth 
residing in any other of the United States, or belong to 
travellers making a transient stay and carrying their 
slaves away with them. The circumstance ought not 
to be overlooked, that this important triumph was achiev 
ed amid the turbulence and anxiety of revolution ; thus 

* Walsh s Appeal, pp. 320 364. 

132 LIFE OF 

exhibiting the sublime spectacle of a people legislating 
for the liberties of another and distant continent, before 
the recovery of their own. The example was followed 
by Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode 
Island, in the years 1780, 87, 88 ; and in 1794 the Con 
gress of the United States interdicted the trade from all 
the ports of the Union, under severe penalties. The 
cause of emancipation is a very different subject. The 
opinions and a part of the official labors of Mr Jeffer 
son upon that point, have already appeared, or will be 
seen in due time. 

In the month of February, 1779, the committee of 
revisors, having completed their respective tasks, con 
vened at Williamsburg to review, approve, and consoli 
date them into one report. They came together day 
after day, and examined critically their several parts, 
scrutinizing and amending until they had agreed on the 
whole. They had, in this work, embodied all the com 
mon law which it was thought necessary to alter, all 
the British statutes from Magna Charta to the present 
day, and all the laws of Virginia from the establishment 
of their separate legislature to the present time, which 
they thought should be retained, within the compass of 
one hundred and twenty-six bills, making a printed folio 
of ninety pages only. A monument of codification upon 
the republican model, almost incredible at that period ! 
The whole of this labor, the major part of which fell to 
Mr Jefferson, was accomplished at intervals, amidst the 
occupations and anxieties of the times, within the brief 
space of two years. 

In the execution of his part, Mr Jefferson observed a 
rule in relation to style, which may appear rather odd to 
the modern draughtsman. In reforming the ancient stat 
utes he preserved the diction of the text ; and in all new 
draughts he avoided the introduction of modern techni 
calities, and adopted the sample of antiquity ; which, 
from its greater simplicity, would allow less scope for 


the chicanery of the lawyers, and remove from among 
the people numberless liabilities to litigation. Against 
the labored phraseology of modern statutes, he has en 
tered an amusing protest. Their verbosity, says he, 
8 their endless tautologies, their involutions of case with 
in case, and parenthesis within parenthesis, and their 
multiplied efforts at certainty, by saids and aforesaids, 
by ors and by ands, to make them more plain, have ren 
dered them more perplexed and incomprehensible, not 
only to common readers, but to the lawyers themselves. 


134 LIFE OF 


ON the 18th of June, 1779, the committee of revi- 
sors communicated their report to the general assem 
bly, accompanied by a letter to the speaker, signed by 
Mr Jefferson and Mr Wythe, and authorized by Mr 

The revised code was not enacted in a mass, as was 
contemplated. The minds of the legislature were not 
prepared for so extensive a transition at once, and the 
violence of the times afforded little leisure for metaphy 
sical discussion. Some bills were taken out occasion 
ally, from time to time, and passed ; but the main body 
of the work was not entered upon until after the general 
peace, in 1785; when, says Mr Jefferson, by the un 
wearied exertions of Mr Madison, in opposition to the 
endless quibbles, chicaneries, perversions, vexations, and 
delays of lawyers and demi-lawyers, most of the bills 
were passed by the legislature, with little alteration. 
The distinguished cotemporary, who is represented as 
having had so important an agency in carrying this code 
into operation, has added verbal testimony of the un 
common estimate which he put upon its merits. It has, 
says he, been a mine of legislative wealth, and a model 
of statutory composition, containing not a single super 
fluous word, and preferring always words and phrases of 
a meaning fixed as much as possible by oracular trea 
tises, or solemn adjudications. * 

* Letter to S. H. Smith, 1827. 


In preparing this work, Mr Jefferson improved the 
opportunity to push his favorite system of reform into 
every branch of administration. The principal innova 
tions which he made upon the established order of things, 
were the following : 

1. The Repeal of the Law of Entails, which, though 
separately enacted at the first republican session, he in 
corporated into the Revised Code. 

2. The Abrogation of the right of Primogeniture, and 
the equal division of inheritances among all the children, 
or other representatives in equal degree. 

3. The Assertion of the right of Expatriation, or a 
republican definition of the rules whereby aliens may be 
come citizens, and citizens make themselves aliens. 

4. The Establishment of Religious Freedom upon the 
broadest foundation. 

5. The Emancipation of all Slaves born after the pas 
sage of the act, and deportation at a proper age not 
carried into effect. 

6. The Abolition of Capital Punishment in all cases, 
except those of treason and murder ; and the gradua 
tion of punishments to crimes throughout, upon the prin 
ciples of reason and humanity enacted with amend 

7. The Establishment of a systematical plan of Gen 
eral Education, reaching all classes of citizens and adapt 
ed to every grade of capacity not carried into effect. 

The first of these prominent features of the revisal, 
has already been considered at sufficient length. 

The second in the catalogue, holds an eminent rank 
among the ancient and venerable foundations of repub 
licanism. It overturned one of the most arbitrary and 
unrighteous, among the multiplied institutions, which 
have been permitted to evict the laws of God and the 
order of nature from the social systems of mankind. 
The aristocracy of Virginia opposed the innovation with 
the usual pertinacity which marked their adherence to 



the ancient privileges of the order ; but the bill was 
finally carried, in 1785, and forms the present law of 
descents in that commonwealth. 

The law on the subject of expatriation, established 
the republican doctrine on the much controverted prin 
ciple of revolution. The opinions of the author in ref 
erence to this question, with the singular discrepancy 
between them and those of his leading compatriots, have 
been illustrated in a preceding chapter, by an appeal 
to the written testimony of that period. Heterodox and 
presumptuous as his rights of colonization were deemed 
by the politicians of the first stages of the revolution, 
the public mind had now approached so nearly to the 
same point, as to authorize the attempt to establish them 
upon a legal basis. The bill for this purpose was taken 
up separately, and carried, on the 26th of June, 79, 
principally through the exertions of George Mason, into 
whose hands the author had committed it, on his retiring 
from the legislature. After stating the conditions of 
naturalization, and declaring who shall be deemed citi 
zens and who aliens, on terms extremely liberal and 
democratic, the act goes on to prescribe : And in order 
to preserve to the citizens of this commonwealth that 
natural right, which all men have, of relinquishing the 
country in which birth or other accident may have thrown 
them, and seeking subsistence and happiness whereso 
ever they may be able, or may hope to find them ; and 
to declare, unequivocally, what circumstances shall be 
deemed evidence of an intention in any citizen to exer 
cise that right : It is enacted and declared, &c. Hav 
ing defined the necessary circumstances of evidence and 
the mode of proceeding thereon, the act concludes by 
giving to all free white inhabitants of other States, ex 
cept paupers and fugitives from justice, the same rights, 
privileges and immunities, as belong to the free citizens 
of the Commonwealth, and the liberty of free ingress 
and egress to and from the same ; reserving, however, 


the right and authority of retaining persons guilty, or 
charged with the commission of any high crime or mis 
demeanor in another State, and of delivering them over 
to the authorities of the State from which they fled, upon 
demand of the governor or executive power of such 
State. Speaking of this act, in the continuation of 
Burk s History of Virginia, it is observed : 

* Its operation has been superseded by subsequent in 
stitutions ; but that philanthropy which opened, in Vir 
ginia, an asylum to individuals of any nation not at open 
war with America, upon their removing to the State to 
reside, arid taking an oath of fidelity ; and that respect 
for the natural and social rights of men, which lays no 
restraints whatever on expatriation, and claims the al 
legiance of citizens so long only as they are willing to 
retain that character, cannot be forgotten. The legis 
lators of Virginia well knew, that the strongest hold of 
a government on its citizens, is that affection which ra 
tional liberty, mild laws, and protecting institutions nev 
er fail to produce ; especially, when physical advantages 
march in front with political blessings, and industry and 
worth are perennial sources of comfort and respecta 

The act for the establishment of Religious Freedom 
is perhaps the most interesting feature in the revised 
code. With the exception of the Declaration of Inde 
pendence, it is the most celebrated of the author s pro-j 
ductions, and the one to which he recurred with the; 
highest pride and satisfaction. The preamble which 
ushers in the act, designates, with peculiar emphasis, 
the premises upon which the proposition was found 
ed. The following is the preamble, with the accom 
panying act. 

* Whereas Almighty God hath created the mind free ; 
that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments 
or burthens, or by civil incapacitations, tend only to be 
get habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and are a depart 
ure from the plan of the Holy Author of our religion, 

138 LIFE OF 

who being Lord both of body and mind, yet chose not 
to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in his Al 
mighty power to do ; that the impious presumption of 
legislators and rulers, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who, 
being themselves but fallible and uninspired men, have 
assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up 
their own opinions and modes of thinking, as the only 
true and infallible, and as such, endeavoring to impose 
them on others, hath established and maintained false 
religions over the greatest part of the world, and through 
all time ; that to compel a man to furnish contributions 
of money for the propagation of opinions which he dis 
believes, is sinful and tyrannical ; that even the forcing 
him to support this or that teacher of his own religious 
persuasion, is depriving him of the comfortable liberty 
of giving his contributions to the particular pastor, whose 
morals he would make his pattern, and whose powers 
he feels most persuasive to righteousness, and is with 
drawing from the ministry those temporary rewards, 
which, proceeding from an approbation of their personal 
conduct, are an additional incitement to earnest and un 
remitting labors for the instruction of mankind ; that 
our civil rights have no dependence upon our religious 
opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or ge 
ometry ; that therefore the proscribing any citizen as 
unworthy the public confidence, by laying upon him an 
incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolu 
ment, unless he profess or renounce this or that religious 
opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges 
and advantages, to which in common with his fellow cit 
izens he has a natural right ; that it tends only to cor 
rupt the principles of that religion it is meant to en 
courage, by bribing with a monopoly of worldly honors 
and emoluments, those who will externally profess and 
conform to it ; yet though indeed these are criminal who 
do not withstand such temptation, yet neither are those 
innocent who lay the bait in their way ; that to suffer 
the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field 
of opinion, and to restrain the profession or propagation 
of principles on supposition of their ill tendency, is a 
dangerous fallacy, which at once destroys all religious 
liberty, because he being of course judge of that ten- 


dency will make his opinions the rule of judgment, and 
approve or condemn the sentiments of others only as they 
shall square with or differ from his own ; that it is time 
enough for the rightful purposes of civil government, 
for its officers to interfere when principles break out into 
overt acts against peace and good order; and finally, 
that truth is great and will prevail if left to herself, that 
she is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error, and 
has nothing to fear from the conflict, unless by human 
interposition disarmed of her natural weapons, free ar 
gument and debate, errors ceasing to be dangerous when 
it is permitted freely to contradict them : 

1 Be it enacted by the general assembly, That no man 
shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious 
worship, place, or ministry, whatsoever, nor shall be en 
forced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or 
goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his re 
ligious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free 
to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion 
in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise 
diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities. 

* And though we well know that this assembly, elected 
by the people for the ordinary purposes of legislation 
only, have no power to restrain the acts of successive 
assemblies, constituted with powers equal to our own, 
and that therefore to declare this act to be irrevocable 
would be of no effect in law ; yet we are free to declare, 
and do declare, that the rights hereby asserted are of 
the natural rights of mankind, and that if any act should 
be hereafter passed to repeal the present, or to narrow 
its operation, such act will be an infringement of nat 
ural right. 

The above is the form in which it received the sanc 
tion of the legislature, and varies somewhat from the 
original draught. The variations, says the compiler 
of the Virginia statutes, rendered the style less elegant, 
though they did not materially affect the sense. The 
bill was not acted upon until the year 1785, nor carried 
then but with considerable difficulty. 

I had drawn it, says the author, in all the latitude 

140 LIFE OF 

of reason and right. It still met with opposition ; but 
with some mutilations in the preamble, it was finally 
passed ; and a singular proposition proved that its pro 
tection of opinion was meant to be universal. Where the 
preamble declares that coercion is a departure from the 
plan of the Holy Author of our religion, an amendment 
was proposed, by inserting the words "Jesus Christ," 
so that it should read, " a departure from the plan of 
Jesus Christ-, the Holy Author of our religion ;" the in 
sertion was rejected by a great majority, in proof that 
they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its pro 
tection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Ma 
hometan, the Hindoo, and Infidel of every denomination. 

This act has been the standing model of legislation 
for the security of religious freedom in all parts of the 
Union from that day to the present ; and there is not, we 
believe, a State, which has legislated at all upon the subject, 
that has not incorporated, either in its constitution or its 
statutory code, the substance of its provisions, and in 
some instances, its phraseology. 

On its promulgation, in 1785, it excited great admira 
tion, and was copied into every newspaper that made any 
pretensions to liberality with approving comments. In 
Europe, it produced a considerable sensation. It was 
translated into all the principal languages, copied into the 
newspapers, reviews, and encyclopedias, and applauded 
beyond measure by the statesmen and philosophers of the 
ancient world. Mr Jefferson was in France when the in 
telligence of its passage was received in Europe, resi 
dent Minister at the Court of Versailles ; and in his pri 
vate letters to America, of that date, he speaks of the 
admiration expressed for the act of religious freedom, 
and the revised code generally. 

In a letter to Mr Wythe, dated Paris, August 13, 1786, 
he thus writes : 

The European papers have announced, that the As 
sembly of Virginia were occupied in the revisal of their 
code of laws. This, with some other similar intelli- 


gence, has contributed much to convince the people of 
Europe, that what the English papers are constantly 
publishing of our anarchy, is false : as they are sensible, 
that such a work is that of a people only, who are in 
perfect tranquillity. Our act for freedom of religion is 
extremely applauded. The ambassadors and ministers 
of the several nations of Europe, resident at this court, 
have asked of me copies of it, to send to their sovereigns, 
and it is inserted at full length in several books now in 
the press ; among others, in the new Encyclopedic. I 
think it will produce considerable good, even in these 
countries, where ignorance, superstition, poverty, and 
oppression of body and mind, in every form, are so firm 
ly settled on the mass of the people, that their redemp 
tion from them can never be hoped. If all the sove 
reigns of Europe were to set themselves to work, to 
emancipate the minds of their subjects from their pres 
ent ignorance and prejudices, and that, as zealously as 
they now endeavor the contrary, a thousand years would 
not place them on that high ground, on which our com 
mon people are now setting out. Ours could not have 
been so fairly placed under the control of the common 
sense of the people, had they not been separated from 
their parent stock, and kept from contamination, either 
from them, or the other people of the old world, by the 
intervention of so wide an ocean. To know the worth 
of this, one must see the want of it here. 

The next distinguishing and fundamental change re 
commended by the revisal, regarded the freedom of the 
unhappy sons of Africa ; and proposed, directly, the 
emancipation of all slaves born after the passage of the 
act. The bill reported by the revisers, did not itself 
contain this proposition ; but an amendment containing 
it, was prepared, to be offered to the legislature when 
ever the bill should be taken up. It was thought bet 
ter, says the author, that this should be kept back, and 
attempted only, by way of amendment. It was farther 
agreed to embrace in the residuary proposition a clause, 
directing that the after born slaves should continue with 
their parents to a certain age, and then be brought 

142 LIFE OF 

up at the public expense, to tillage, arts or sciences, ac 
cording to their geniuses, till the females should be 
eighteen, and the males twenty-one years of age, when 
they should be colonized to such place as the circum 
stances of the time should render most proper, sending 
them out with arms, implements of household and the 
handicraft arts, seeds, pairs of the useful domestic ani 
mals, <fcc ; to declare them a free and independent peo 
ple, and to extend to them our alliance and protection, 
till they should have acquired strength ; and to send 
vessels, at the same time, to other parts of the world for 
an equal number of white inhabitants, to induce whom 
to migrate hither, proper encouragements were to be 
proposed. But when the bill was taken up by the legis 
lature, in 1785, neither Mr Jefferson, nor Mr Wythe, 
his chief coadjutor in the undertaking, were members ; 
the former being absent on the Legation to France, and 
the latter, an officer of the judiciary department ; so 
the contemplated amendment was not proposed, and the 
bill passed unaltered, being a mere digest of the existing 
laws on the subject, without any intimation of a plan 
for future and general emancipation. 

If there was any question connected with the freedom 
and happiness of mankind, on which the genius of Mr 
Jefferson kindled into an extravagance, incompatible 
with sobriety and right reason, it was that of the eman 
cipation of slaves. It was hardly possible for him, as 
he declared, to write and be temperate on the subject. 
The quotations already given, exhibit abundant evi 
dence of the intensity with which he yearned, to use his 
own language, for the moment of delivery to this op 
pressed description of men. The following vehement 
exhortation was penned in France, on learning the pas 
sage of the Slave Bill in Virginia, without the adoption 
of his concerted amendment. 

1 What a stupendous, what an incomprehensible : 
line is man ! who can endure toil, famine, stripes, 


prisonment, and death itself, in vindication of his own 
liberty, and, the next moment, be deaf to all those mo 
tives whose power supported him through his trial, and 
inflict on his fellow men a bondage, one hour of which 
is fraught with more misery, than ages of that which he 
rose in rebellion to oppose ! But we must await, with 
patience, the workings of an overruling Providence, and 
hope that that is preparing the deliverance of these our 
suffering brethren. When the measure of their tears 
shall be full, when their groans shall have involved 
heaven itself in darkness, doubtless a God of justice will 
awaken to their distress, and by diffusing light and 
liberality among their oppressors, or at length, by his 
exterminating thunder, manifest his attention to the 
things of this world, and that they are not left to the 
guidance of a blind fatality. 

The following paragraph in allusion to the same trans 
action of the legislature, was written at the age of 
seventy-seven. Time but added emphasis to his appal 
ling predictions, and strengthened his attachment to the 
plan of redemption originally proposed by him. 

4 It was found that the public mind would not yet 
bear the proposition, nor will it bear it even at this day, 
(1821.) Yet the day is not distant, when it must bear 
and adopt it, or worse will follow. Nothing is more 
certainly written in the book of fate, than that these 
people are to be free ; nor is it less certain, that the 
two races, equally free, cannot live in the same govern 
ment. Nature, habit, opinion have drawn indelible 
lines of distinction between them. It is still in our 
power to direct the process of emancipation and depor 
tation, peaceably, and in such slow degree, as that the 
evil will wear off insensibly, and their place be, pari 
passu, filled up by free white laborers. If, on the con 
trary, it is left to force itself on, human nature must 
shudder at the prospect held up. We should in vain 
look for an example in the Spanish deportation, or dele 
tion of the Moors. This precedent would fall far short 
of our case. 

The bill for proportioning crimes and punishments 

144 LIFE OP 

in cases heretofore capital, occupies a proud niche in 
the temple of revolutionary reform. The changes it 
proposed in the criminal code of the old world, were 
of the most extensive character, and such as modern 
experience has proved not inconsistent with the protec 
tion and good order of society, while they prevented 
the sacrifice of human life. Theoretical writers had 
previously shaken the barbarous opinions which pre 
vailed on the subject of penal jurisprudence ; among 
whom Mr Jefferson mentions Beccaria, in particular, as 
having satisfied the reasonable world, of the un right- 
fulness and inefficacy of the punishment of crimes by 
death. But no mitigation had been effected in prac 
tice ; and the author of this act stands before the world 
as the first official lawgiver, who having advanced to the 
true theory of criminal ethics, went boldly arid rationally 
to work to incorporate it into the body of civil juris 
prudence. The legitimate object of all punishment 
being, in his opinion, discipline rather than vengeance, 
he made the reformation of the offender the fundamental 
maxim of his theory, and graduated his scale of penal 
sanctions by that standard. The punishment of death 
putting this object entirely out of the question, he re 
strained its infliction to cases in which reformation was 
either hopeless, or too hazardous to attempt. Succeed 
ing legislators and moral philosophers have adopted the 
same principle for their guide ; and pursuing it to a still 
greater extent, have effected still greater improvements 
on the ancient economy. It led eventually to the 
penitentiary system, now so well tested by experi 
ence, as to have become nearly universal ; and the 
idea has of late been carried so far as to have 
brought seriously in question, the right and utility of 
capital punishment in any case. That strong confidence 
in the innate virtue of man, which led Mr Jefferson to 
exclude the agency of force from every portion of the re 
vised system that came under his control, placed him at 


once on the same high and humane ground, in relation 
to criminal jurisprudence, which is maintained by the 
philanthropists of the present day. 

The bill was brought forward in the legislature by Mi- 
Madison, in 1785, and lost by a single vote. The intel 
ligence of the country had not then advanced to a requi 
site point for sanctioning the opinions of the revisor on 
the subject of capital punishment. But it was well per 
haps, on the whole, that the bill was rejected; for it 
enabled the author to effect a substantial improvement 
on his original plan ; to wit, the substitution of labor in 
solitary confinement, for labor in the public works. The 
latter, it will be recollected, had been adopted by the 
revisors, in the room of punishment by death ; but it had 
not then been essayed by actual experiment. Afterwards, 
in 1786, the experiment was tried in Pennsylvania for two 
years, without approbation, when it was followed by the 
Penitentiary system, on the principle of labor in confine 
ment, which succeeded beyond calculation. About the 
same time Mr Jefferson, in France, had heard of a 
benevolent society in England, which had been indulged 
by the government in an experiment of the effect of labor 
in solitary confinement on some of their criminals ; 
which experiment was proceeding auspiciously. The 
same idea had been suggested in France, and an archi 
tect of Lyons had proposed a well contrived plan of a 
prison, on the principle of solitary confinement. Atten 
tive to these valuable hints, Mr Jefferson procured a 
drawing of the prison proposed by this architect ; and 
having a little before been written to by the governor of 
Virginia, for a plan of a capitol and prison for that 
State, he sent him the Lyons drawing, * in the hope, 
says he, that it would suggest the idea of labor in soli 
tary confinement, instead of that on the public works, 
which we had adopted in our revised code. This was 
in June, 1786. The principle, but not the exact form 
of the drawing, was preserved in the erection of what is 

146 LIFE OF 

now called the Penitentiary at Richmond. In the mean 
time, the increasing intelligence and sensibility of the 
age were preparing the way for the general sweep of 
capital revocations, recommended by the revisors ; and 
the public opinion was ripening, by reflection, and by 
the example of Pennsylvania, for the adoption of the 
newly essayed substitute. 

In 1796, therefore, after the steady humanization of 
ten years, the legislature resumed the subject of the 
criminal law, and passed the bill reported by Mr Jeffer 
son, with the substitution of solitary, in the room of 
public labor. The diction of the text, however, was 
modernized, which the author had scrupulously avoided, 
to prevent new questions by new expressions ; and, in 
stead of the settled distinctions of murder and man 
slaughter, preserved by him, the new terms of murder in 
the first and second degree, were introduced. These 
alterations were probably not for the better, as they 
gave occasion for renewed questions of definition. The 
bill was brought forward the last time by Mr G. K. 
Taylor, who was chiefly instrumental in procuring its 
passage, with the amendments. 

We come now to consider the last, and clearly the 
most important scheme of public reformation contained 
in the revised code, forming, as it does, the entrance 
and a perpetual guard to the enjoyment of all the others. 
The system, proposed for the diffusion of knowledge 
through the whole mass of the people, by extending to 
every degree of capacity a proportionate degree of edu 
cation, and placing all upon an equal footing for ob 
taining the first and necessary degrees, was an original 
idea ; than which nothing would seem more admirably 
contrived for the foundation of a durable and well or 
dered republic. This portion of the work fell more 
properly within the division assigned to Mr Pendleton ; 
but it was agreed, on the urgent recommendation of Mr 
Jefferson, that a new and systematical plan of universal 


education should be proposed, and he was requested to 
undertake it. He did so, preparing three bills for that 
purpose, proposing three distinct grades of instruction, 
in the following order : 1. Elementary schools, for all 
children generally, rich and poor, without distinction. 
2. Colleges, or, as they are more usually styled, in this 
country, academies, for a middle degree of instruction, 
calculated for the common purposes of life, yet such as 
would be desirable for all who were in easy circum 
stances. 3. A University, in the room of William and 
Mary College, constituting the ultimate grade, for teach 
ing the sciences generally, and in their highest degree. 

The first and second bills were for the organization 
of this system ; and the third for the establishment of 
a public library and gallery, by the appropriation of a 
certain sum annually to the purchase of books, paint 
ings and statues. 

The organization of the system, in all its parts, ex 
hibits a model of republican equality and harmonious 
arrangement. It proposed the division of the State into 
twenty-four districts, and the subdivision of these into 
wards called hundreds, of five or six miles square, ac 
cording to the size and population of the district. In 
each hundred was to be established an elementary 
school, in which should be taught reading, writing, and 
common arithmetic ; the expenses of which should be 
borne by the inhabitants of the county, every one in pro 
portion to his general tax rate. All free children, male 
and female, resident in the hundred, should be entitled 
to three years instruction at the school, free of expense, 
and to as much more as they chose, by paying for it. 
In each district was to be established an academy, or 
grammar school, to be supported at the public expense, 
in which should be taught the classics, grammar, geo 
graphy, and the higher branches of numerical arith 

The bill provides farther, for the annual selection of 

148 LIFE OF 

the most promising subjects from the elementary schools, 
whose parents were too poor to educate them, who 
should be transferred to the district institutions at the 
public expense. And from the district institutions also, 
a certain number annually were to be selected, of the 
most promising character, but whose parents were un 
able to incur the burthen, who should be sent on to the 
University, to receive the ultimate degree of intellectual 
cultivation. Genius and worth would thus be sought out 
of every walk of life ; and, to adopt a favorite senti 
ment of the author, the veritable aristocracy of nature 
would be completely prepared by the laws, for defying 
and defeating the pseudo-aristocracy of wealth and birth, 
in the competition for public trusts. 

It was farther in the contemplation of the author, had 
his system been carried into operation, to have imparted to 
the wards or hundreds, all those portions of self-govern 
ment; for which they are best qualified ; by confiding 
to them the care of their poor, their roads, police, elec 
tions, the nomination of jurors, administration of justice 
in small cases, and elementary exercises of militia ; in 
short, to have made them little republics, with a warden 
at the head of each, for all those concerns which, being 
under their eye, they would better manage than the 
larger republics of the county, or State. A general call 
of ward meetings by the wardens, on the same day 
throughout the State, would at any time embody the 
genuine sense of the people, on any required point, 
and present a forcible illustration of democratic govern 

The three several bills, for the ward schools, the dis 
trict institutions, the University, and for the establish 
ment of a library and gallery, were all brought before 
the legislature, in the year 1796. The first only was 
acted upon, and finally adopted ; but with an amend 
ment which completely defeated it. They inserted a 
provision leaving it to the court of each county to de- 


termine for itself, when the act should be carried into 
execution. The effect of the bill being to throw on 
wealth the education of the poor, and the justices being 
unwilling to incur the responsibility, the plan was not 
suffered to commence in a single county. The propo 
sition to erect the College of William and Mary into a 
University, encountered insuperable impediments. The 
present college was an establishment purely of the 
church of England ; the visitors were required to be all 
of that church ; the professors to subscribe its thirty- 
nine articles ; the students to learn its catechism ; and 
one of its fundamental objects was declared to be, to 
raise up ministers for that church. The dissenters took 
alarm, lest the enlargement of the institution might give 
an ascendency to the Anglican sect, and refused to act 
upon the proposition. The bill for the establishment of 
a library and gallery met a similar fate ; and thus no 
part of this grand and beneficial system was ever per 
mitted to take effect. 

Perhaps there was no one feature of the revised code, 
on which Mr Jefferson placed a more justly exalted es 
timate, than that which proposed the diffusion of edu 
cation universally and impartially among the people. 
Knowledge is unquestionably, to use an expression of 
his own, the key-stone of the political arch, in popu 
lar governments, and the only foundation which can be 
laid for permanent freedom and prosperity. Upon this 
point he was enthusiastically pertinacious. His efforts 
were perseveringly directed to its attainment, in the 
form originally proposed by him, on all possible occa 
sions which subsequently offered ; and on his final re 
tirement from public affairs, he made it the great busi 
ness of his life. Being in Europe, as before stated, at 
the time the main body of the revisal was entered on, 
he was prevented from raising his voice and utter 
ing his opinions in the legislature, with the power 
and authority he had formerly done ; but his letters to 

150 LIFE OF 

his friends in Virginia, of that date, abound with the 
most eloquent persuasions of the importance of carrying 
into effect those portions of the work, which he deemed 
most essential to the freedom and happiness of the peo 
ple. Among these, the bill under consideration occu 
pied a prominent share of his solicitude ; as is manifested 
by the following extract of a letter to Mr .Wythe, dated 
Paris, August 13, 1786. 

I think by far the most important bill in our whole 
code, is that for the diffusion of knowledge among the 
people. No other sure foundation can be devised for the 
preservation of freedom and happiness. If any body 
thinks, that kings, nobles, or priests are good conserva 
tors of the public happiness, send him here. It is the 
best school in the universe to cure him of that folly. 
He will see here, with his own eyes, that these descrip 
tions of men are an abandoned confederacy against the 
happiness of the mass of the people. The omnipotence 
of their effect cannot be better proved, than in this 
country particularly, where, notwithstanding the finest 
soil upon earth, the finest climate under heaven, and a 
people of the most benevolent, the most gay and amia 
ble character of which the human form is susceptible ; 
where such a people, I say, surrounded by so many 
blessings from nature, are loaded with misery by kings, 
nobles, and priests, and by them alone. Preach, my 
dear Sir, a crusade against ignorance : establish and 
improve the law for educating the common people. Let 
our countrymen know, that the people alone can pro 
tect us against these evils, and that the tax which will 
be paid for this purpose, is not more than the thousandth 
part of what will be paid to kings, priests and nobles, 
who will rise up among us, if we leave the people in ig 
norance. The people of England, I think, are less op 
pressed than here. But it needs but half an eye to see, 
when among them, that the foundation is laid in their 
dispositions for the establishment of a despotism. No 
bility, wealth, and pomp are the objects of their admi 
ration. They are by no means the free minded people, 
we suppose them in America. Their learned men, too, 


are few in number, and are less learned, and infinitely 
less emancipated from prejudice than those of this coun- 

Such are some of the innovations on the established 
order of things, contained in the celebrated revised 
code of Virginia, in 1779 ; of all which, Mr Jefferson 
was the originator and draughtsman. It is impossible, 
at the present day, to form an adequate idea of this 
great political work, or of the genius and application it 
required. On the authority of Mr Madison we are en 
abled to say, that it, perhaps, exceeded the severest of 
Mr Jefferson s public labors. And the whole of this 
magnificent undertaking was executed during the short 
interval of three years, chiefly by an individual, and 
carried into action mainly by his own efforts ; supported, 
indeed, by able and faithful coadjutors from the ranks of 
the house, very effective as seconds, but who would not | 
have taken the field as leaders. The natural equality] 
of the human race, the first maxim of the author s poli-/ 
tical creed, was the governing principle of his present! 
general institute. Four of the bills reported were re 
markable illustrations of this principle, sufficient to 
crush forever the eternal antagonism of artificial aristo 
cracy, against the rights and happiness of the people. 
They were marshalled in phalanx by the author, for the 
express purpose of carrying out the principle of equality 
in all its latitude, as appears by his own record of the 

I considered four of these bills, passed or reported, 
as forming a system by which every fibre would be 
eradicated of ancient or future aristocracy ; and a foun 
dation laid for a government truly republican. The 
Repeal of the Laws of Entail would prevent the accu 
mulation and perpetration of wealth, in select families, 
and preserve the soil of the country from being daily 
more and more absorbed in mortmain. The Abolition 
of Primogeniture, and equal partition of inheritances, 
removed the feudal and unnatural distinctions, which 

152 LIFE OP 

made one member of every family rich, and all the rest 
poor, substituting equal partition, the best of all Agrarian 
laws. The Restoration of the Rights of Conscience re 
lieved the people from taxation for the support of a re 
ligion not theirs ; for the establishment was truly of the 
religion of the rich, the dissenting sects being entirely 
composed of the less wealthy people; and these, by the 
Bill for a General Education, would be qualified to un 
derstand their rights, to maintain them, and to exercise 
with intelligence their parts in self-government : and all 
this would be effected, without the violation of a single 
natural right of any one individual citizen. To these, 
too, might be added, as a farther security, the introduc 
tion of the trial by jury into the chancery courts, which 
have already engulphed, and continue to engulph, so 
great a proportion of the jurisdiction over our property. 

Our detail of the public and official services of Mr 
Jefferson, must now give place to an incident in pri 
vate life, which discovers his social affections, and his 
general philanthropy. At the memorable surrender of 
Burgoyne in 77, it will be recollected, about four thous 
and British troops fell prisoners of war into the hands of 
the American general ; and by an express article in the 
capitulation it was provided, that the surrendering army 
should be retained in America, until an authentic ratifi 
cation of the convention entered into between the bel 
ligerents, should be received from the British govern 
ment. The troops were at first ordered to Boston, 
where they remained about a twelve-month, when they 
were removed to Charlottesville, in Virginia, a short dis 
tance from Monticello. They arrived at the latter place, 
in January 1779, harassed by a long journey, during a 
most inclement season, and doomed to encounter the 
severest hardships on their arrival, from the unfinished 
state of their barracks, the insufficiency of stores, and 
the condition of the roads, which rendered the pros 
pect of a timely and competent supply of subsistence al 
most hopeless. 


A general alarm was disseminated among the inhab 
itants, insomuch that reasonable minds were affected by 
the panic. Mr Jefferson remained tranquil and unmoved. 
He stood among the multitude and exhorted them to pa 
tience and composure ; and soon, agreeably to his re 
peated assurances, every difficulty disappeared, and ev 
ery apprehension vanished. The planters, being more 
generally sellers than buyers, availed themselves, with 
great activity, of the advantages produced by the extra 
ordinary demand for provisions, and quickly removed a 
scarcity merely accidental, to their own evident benefit. 

In the mean time, Mr Jefferson engaged personally in 
erecting barracks for the privates, and establishing ac 
commodations for the officers. It is true, these men 
were the instruments of a cruel and implacable enemy, 
foes to the freedom and happiness of their benefactor, 
and who, he well knew, regarded him with such animos 
ity, that under any other circumstances, they would have 
treated his offers of generosity with contempt. They 
were the enemies of his country, whose cries were now 
ascending to Heaven against the injuries of its oppres 
sors ; but they were human beings, and as such entitled, 
in his opinion, to the same offices of kindness and hos 
pitality, when in distress, as those who were united to 
him by the ties of national alliance. He was indefati 
gable in his endeavors to render the situation of the 
captives comfortable. Aided by the benevolent inter 
position of the citizens of Charlottesville, and by the 
genius and humane dispositions of the Commissary, 
his exertions were attended with the most gratifying suc 
cess. In a short time, the residence of the prisoners 
assumed an air of comfort and ease ; the barracks were 
completed, and a plentiful supply of provisions was pro 
cured. The officers had rented houses at an extravagant 
price, erected additional buildings at their own expense, 
and hired small farms in the neighborhood, on which 
they beguiled the tedious hours of captivity in the occu- 

154 LIFE OF 

pations of agriculture and gardening. The men imitat 
ed, on a smaller scale, the example of the officers. The 
environs of the barracks presented a charming appear 

But these extensive and promising arrangements were 
scarcely completed, when the executive of Virginia, who 
had been invested by congress with certain discretionary 
powers over the convention troops, as they were call 
ed, came to the determination of removing them, either 
wholly or in part, from Charlottesville, on the ground of 
the insufficiency of the State for their animal subsistence. 
The rumored intelligence of this determination, filled 
the soldiers with the deepest regret and disappointment. 
Loud complaints were heard against the inhumanity of 
the measure ; the nation was accused of violation of 
faith ; and such was the degree of excitement among 
the prisoners, that mutiny was seriously apprehended. 

The citizens among whom they were quartered par 
ticipated in the general disapprobation. They contem 
plated the proposition, with regret and mortification. 
Mr Jefferson addressed a long letter to Gov. Henry, and 
arrayed before him the public reasons, which militated 
against the measure. 

The reasonableness of this appeal, produced the in 
tended effect. The governor and council, on a dispas 
sionate review of the arguments submitted by Mr Jeffer 
son, were convinced, that the removal or separation of 
the troops would be a breach of the public faith, and fix 
the character of unsteadiness, and what was worse, of 
cruelty, on the councils of the nation. The proposition 
was accordingly abandoned, and the troops permitted to 
remain together at Charlottesville. 

The conduct of Mr Jefferson, on this occasion, and 
his uniform endeavors during their confinement, to ame 
liorate their suffering condition, excited in the soldiers 
the liveliest emotions of gratitude. They loaded him 
with expressions of their sensibility ; and no time could 


obliterate the impression from their hearts. Subse 
quently, when ambassador in Europe, Mr Jefferson vis 
ited Germany ; and passing through a town where one 
of the Hessian corps, that had been at Charlottesville, 
happened to be in garrison, he met with Baron De Geis- 
mar, who immediately apprized his brother officers of 
the presence of their benefactor. They flocked around 
him, greeted him with affecting tokens of their remem 
brance, and spoke of America with enthusiasm. 

On taking leave of Charlottesville, the principal offi 
cers, Major Generals Phillips and Riedesel, Brigadier 
Specht, C. De Geismar, J. L. De linger, and some oth 
ers, addressed him letters expressive of their lasting at 
tachment, and bidding him an affectionate adieu. Phil 
lips emphatically extols his delicate proceedings. 
Riedesel repeatedly and fervently pours out his thanks, 
and those of his wife and children. To all these letters, 
Mr Jefferson returned answers. Some of these answers 
have been preserved. The great cause which divides 
our countries, he replied to Phillips, * is not to be de 
cided by individual animosities. The harmony of pri 
vate societies cannot weaken national efforts. To con 
tribute, by neighborly intercourse and attention, to make 
others happy, is the shortest and surest way of being 
happy ourselves. As these sentiments seem to have di 
rected your conduct, we should be as unwise as illiberal, 
were we not to preserve the same temper of mind. 

To General Riedesel he thus wrote : < The little at 
tentions you are pleased to magnify so much, never de 
served a mention or thought. Opposed as we hap 
pen to be, in our sentiments of duty and honor, and anx 
ious for contrary events, I shall nevertheless sincerely 
rejoice in every circumstance of happiness and safety 
which may attend you personally. 

To Lieutenant De linger he replied in the following 
manner : * The very small amusements which it has been 
in my power to furnish, in order to lighten your heavy 

156 LIFE OF 

hours, by no means merited the acknowledgments you 
make. Their impression must be ascribed to your ex 
treme sensibility rather than to their own weight. When 
the course of events shall have removed you to distant 
scenes of action, where laurels not moistened with the 
blood of my country, may be gathered, I shall urge my 
sincere prayers for your obtaining every honor and pre 
ferment which may gladden the heart of a soldier. On 
the other hand, should your fondness for philosophy re 
sume its merited ascendancy, is it impossible to hope, 
that this unexplored country may tempt your residence, 
by holding out materials, wherewith to build a fame, 
founded on the happiness, and not on the calamities of 
human nature 1 Be this as it may, a philosopher or a 
soldier, I wish you personally many felicities. De lin 
ger was a votary of literature and science. He was a 
frequent visitor at the hospitable mansion of Mr Jeffer 
son, and enjoyed in his library advantages, which his 
taste combined with his situation to render doubly pre 
cious. Other officers loved music and painting ; they 
found in him a rich and cultivated taste for the fine arts. 
They were astonished, delighted ; and their letters to 
several parts of Germany, gave of the American char 
acter, ideas derived from that exalted specimen. These 
letters found their way into several Gazettes of the an 
cient world, and the name of Jefferson was associated 
with that of Franklin, whose fame had then spread over 
Europe. Surely, says an historian,* this innocent 
and bloodless conquest over the minds of men, whose 
swords had originally been hired to the oppressors of 
America, was in itself scarcely less glorious, though in 
its effects less extensively beneficial, than the splendid 
train of victories which had disarmed their hands. 

* Girardin, p. 327. 



ON the 1st of June, 1779, Mr Jefferson was elected 
Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and retired 
from the legislature with the highest dignity in their 
gifts. Political distinctions being then unknown, the 
ballot box determined the exact value put upon the 
abilities of public characters. 

On assuming the helm of administration, Mr Jeffer 
son directed the weight of his station, and the powers 
confided to him, towards reclaiming the enemy to the 
principles of humanity in the treatment of American 
prisoners. He had seen that the conduct of the British 
officers, civil and military, had through the whole course 
of the war, been savage, and unprecedented among 
civilized nations ; that American officers and soldiers, 
captured by them, had been loaded with irons con 
signed to crowded gaols, loathsome dungeons, and pri 
son-ships supplied often with no food, generally with 
too little for the sustenance of nature, and that little so 
unsound and unwholesome, as to have rendered cap 
tivity and death almost synonymous terms ; that they 
had been transported beyond seas, where their fate 
could not be ascertained, or compelled to take arras 
against their country, and by a refinement in cruelty to 
become the murderers of their own brethren. 

On the other hand, the treatment extended to British 

prisoners by American victors, had been marked, he 

well knew, with singular moderation and clemency. 

They had been supplied, on all occasions, with whole- 


158 LIFE OP 

some and plentiful food, provided with comfortable ac 
commodations, suffered to range at large within exten 
sive tracts of country, permitted to live in American 
families, to labor for themselves, to acquire and enjoy 
property, and to participate in the principal benefits of 
society, while privileged from all its burthens. In some 
cases they had been treated with hospitality and courtesy. 
We have already witnessed the gratifying spectacle of 
four thousand British troops, prisoners of war, relieved 
suddenly from an accumulation of miseries, and raised 
to a condition of competency and comfort, chiefly by his 
own private enterprise, seconded by the liberality of his 
fellow citizens. 

Reviewing this contrast, governor Jefferson felt im 
pelled by a sense of public justice, to substitute a system 
of rigorous retribution. He felt called on, in the im 
pressive language of his order, by that justice we owe 
to those who are fighting the battles of our country, to 
deal out miseries to their enemies, measure for measure, 
and to distress the feelings of mankind by exhibiting to 
them spectacles of severe retaliation, where we had 
long and vainly endeavored to introduce an emulation 
in kindness. 

Happily, the fortune of war had thrown into his power 
some of those very individuals who, having distinguish 
ed themselves personally in the practise of cruelties, 
were proper subjects on which to begin the work of re 
taliation. Among these were Henry Hamilton, who for 
some years past had acted as lieutenant governor of 
the settlement at Detroit, under Sir Guy Carlton ; Philip 
Dejean, justice of the peace for Detroit, and William 
Lamothe, captain of volunteers, taken prisoners of 
war by colonel Clarke at Fort St Vincents, and brought 
under guard to Williamsburg, early in June, 79. Pro 
clamations under his own hand, and the concurrent tes 
timony of indifferent witnesses, proved governor Hamil 
ton a remorseless destroyer of the human race, instead 


of an open and honorable enemy. He had excited the 
Indians to perpetrate their accustomed atrocities upon 
the citizens of the United States, with an eagerness 
and ingenuity, which evinced that the general nature of 
the employment harmonized with his particular dispo 
sition. He gave standing rewards for scalps, but offered 
none for prisoners, which induced the Indians, after 
compelling their captives to carry their baggage into the 
neighborhood of the fort, to butcher them at last, and 
carry in their scalps to the governor, who welcomed 
their return and success by a discharge of cannon ; and 
the few American prisoners spared by his blood-hounds, 
were doomed by him to a captivity of lingering and 
complicated tortures, terminating in death. Concern 
ing Dejean and Lamothe, it was well ascertained that 
they had, on all occasions, been the ready instruments 
of Hamilton. The former, acting in the double capa 
city of judge and jailor, had instigated him by malicious 
insinuations, to increase rather than relax his severities, 
and had aggravated the cruelty of his orders, by his 
manner of executing them ; the latter, as commander of 
volunteer scalping parties, Indians and whites, had deso 
lated the frontier settlements by his marauding excur 
sions, devoting to indiscriminate destruction, men, wo 
men and children, and stimulating by his example, the 
fury of his execrable banditti.* 

Possessed by the force of American arms of such fit 
subjects as these on which to make the first demonstra 
tions of retributive justice, and coerce the enemy into 
the usages of civilized warfare, Jefferson issued an 
order in conformity to the advice of his council, direct 
ing the above named prisoners to be put in irons, con 
fined in the dungeon of the public gaol, debarred the 
use of pen, ink and paper, and excluded from all con 
versation, except with their keeper. 

* Jefferson s Works, Vol. 1, Appendix, Note A. 

160 LIFE OF 

Major general Phillips, who continued near Char- 
lottesville in captivity, having read in the Virginia 
Gazette the order of the governor, immediately ad 
dressed him a remonstrance on the subject. In his 
communication, he endeavored to invalidate the testi 
mony against Hamilton, and to extenuate his conduct ; 
expressed doubts respecting the authority of any par 
ticular State to enter upon retaliation, which he sup 
posed belonged exclusively to Congress ; expatiated 
largely on the sacred nature of a capitulation, which in 
the present case, he contended, exempted the prisoner 
from the severe punishment inflicted on him, whatever 
his previous conduct might have been ; and in conclu 
sion, entreated the governor to reconsider the subject. 
* From my residence in Virginia, he adds, * I have con 
ceived the most favorable idea of the gentlemen of this 
country ; and from my personal acquaintance with you, 
Sir, I am led to imagine it must have been very disso 
nant to the feelings of your mind, to inflict such a 
weight of misery and stigma of disgrace upon the un 
fortunate gentleman in question. 

Whatever may have been the feelings of Mr Jefferson, 
when no superior obligation stood in the way, (and none 
had better reason to honor them than general Philips 
and his fellow captives,) his present situation, as chief 
magistrate, required the stern subordination of those 
feelings to the service of his country, and the general 
good of mankind. His own opinion was, that all per 
sons taken in war, as well those who surrendered on 
capitulation, as those who surrendered at discretion, 
were to be deemed prisoners of war and liable to the 
same treatment ; except only so far as they were pro 
tected by the express terms of their capitulation. In 
the surrender of governor Hamilton, no stipulation was 
made as to the treatment of himself or his fellow pri 
soners. The governor indeed, upon signing, had ad 
ded a flourish of reasons, which induced him to capitu- 


late, one of which was the generosity of his victorious 
enemy. Generosity, on a large and comprehensive 
scale, thought Mr Jefferson, dictated the making a sig 
nal example of the gentleman ; but waving that, these 
were only the private motives inducing him to surrender, 
and did not enter into the contract of the antagonist 
party. He continued in the belief, therefore, that the 
bare existence of a capitulation did not exempt Hamil 
ton from confinement, there being in the contract no 
positive stipulation to that effect. The importance of 
the point, however, in a national view, and his great 
anxiety for the honor of the government under a charge 
of violated faith by one of its supreme functionaries, in 
duced him to submit the question to the commander in 

General Washington saw with pleasure the executive 
of his native State, entering upon a course of measures 
which the conduct of the enemy had rendered necessary. 
But, entertaining doubts as to the real bearing and extent 
of the capitulation in question, and concurring with Mr 
Jefferson, in a sacred respect for the laws and usages 
of civilized nations, he recommended a relaxation of 
severities, after a fair trial of the practical effect of the 
present proceeding. One solemn inculcation would 
have been administered ; Virginia would have it in her 
power to repeat it. This alone might produce the in 
tended reformation, and remove the necessity of indi 
vidual chastisement for national barbarities. 

Influenced by the advice of the commander in chief, 
which harmonized with the better dictates of his heart, 
governor Jefferson reconsidered the case of the captives, 
and issued a second order in council, mitigating the se 
verity of the first, though not compromising the right in 
any one point. 

Agreeably to this order, a parole was drawn up and 
tendered to the prisoners. It required them to be inoffen 
sive in word as well as deed ; to which they objected, in- 

162 LIFE OF 

sisting on entire freedom of speech. They were conse 
quently remanded to their confinement, which was now 
to be considered voluntary. Their irons, however, were 
knocked off. The subaltern prisoners soon after sub 
scribed the parole, and were enlarged ; but Hamilton 
long refused the proffer. Upon being informed by gen 
eral Phillips, who had been exchanged, that his suffer 
ings would be perfectly gratuitous, he at last complied. 
These measures of governor Jefferson produced the 
effects anticipated. In the first moments of passion, the 
British resorted to what they termed, retaliation ; being 
a revival in more hideous forms, of their established prac 
tices therefore, to be deemed original and unprovoked 
in every new instance. A declaration was also issued, 
that no officers of the Virginia line should be exchanged 
till Hamilton s affair should be satisfactorily settled. 
When this information was received, the governor im 
mediately ordered all exchange of British prisoners to be 
stopped, with the determination to use them as pledges 
for the safety of Americans in like circumstances. It 
is impossible, he writes to General Washington, they 
can be serious in attempting to bully us in this manner. 
We have too many of their subjects in our power, and 
too much iron to clothe them with, and I will add, too 
much resolution to avail ourselves of both, to fear their 
pretended retaliation. Effectual measures were taken 
for ascertaining, from time to time, the situation and 
treatment of American captives, with a view to retaliate 
on the enemy corresponding treatment in all cases ; 
and the prison ship fitted up on the recommendation of 
Congress, was ordered to a proper station, for the recep 
tion and confinement of such as should be sent to it. 
* I am afraid, he again writes to the commander in 
chief, I shall hereafter, perhaps, be obliged to give 
your excellency some trouble in aiding me to obtain in 
formation of the future usage of our prisoners. I shall 
give immediate orders for having in readiness every en- 


gine, which the enemy have contrived for the destruction 
of our unhappy citizens captivated by them. The pre 
sentiment of these operations is shocking beyond ex 
pression. I pray heaven to avert them ; but nothing in 
this world will do it, but a proper conduct in the enemy. 
In every event, I shall resign myself to the hard necessity 
under which I shall act. 

The governor was not insensible to the aggravation of 
misery, which the first exercises of his policy brought on 
those unfortunate citizens of the United States, who 
were in the power of the enemy. On the contrary, he 
entered feelingly into their situation, and encouraged 
them, by appeals to their fortitude, to bear up against a 
temporary increase of personal suffering, for the lasting 
and general benefit of their country. 

These sentiments of the executive, lifted the hearts 
of the American prisoners. They acquiesced in the 
stern necessity which dictated the disregard of their 
private distresses, in the prospect of the general ameli 
oration of captivated man. Nor was this anticipa 
tion wholly disappointed. The practical inculcation of 
such a lesson, produced a sensible effect upon the con 
duct of the enemy, through the subsequent stages of the 
war. British magnanimity was compelled to yield to 
the cries of their own countrymen, and the admonitions 
of experience. 

In the same spirit which guided his military opera 
tions, the governor engaged in a civil transaction of ex 
tensive and solid utility to the commonwealth. Upon 
the mediation of Spain, offered about this time, sanguine 
hopes were entertained of an approaching pacification ; 
and Congress in settling their ultimatum, had intimated 
that the principle of uti possidetis should be recognized 
in adjusting the boundaries of the several States. 
Whereupon, Mr Jefferson instituted active measures for 
extending the western establishments of Virginia, with a 
view to secure by actual possession, the right of that 

164 LIFE OF 

State in its whole extent, to the Mississippi. He engag 
ed a company of scientific gentlemen to proceed under 
an escort to the Mississippi, and ascertain by celestial 
observation, the point on that river intersected by the 
latitude of thirty-six and a half degrees, the southern 
limit of the State ; and to measure its distance from the 
moath of the Ohio. 

The brave arid enterprising Colonel Clarke, who by a se 
ries of unparalleled successes over the Indians, had already 
secured extensive acquisitions to Virginia, was selected by 
the governor to conduct the military operations. He 
was directed, so soon as the southern limit on the Mis 
sissippi should be ascertained, to select a strong position, 
near that point, and to establish there a fort and garrison ; 
thence to extend his conquests northward to the lakes, 
erecting forts at different points, which might serve as 
monuments of actual possession, besides affording pro 
tection to that portion of the country. Under these or 
ders, Fort Jefferson, in compliment to the founder of the 
enterprize, was erected and garrisoned on the Mississip 
pi, a few miles above the southern limit. The final re 
sult of this expedition, was the addition to the chartered 
limits of Virginia, of that immense tract of country north 
west of the Ohio river, which includes the present States 
of Indiana, Illinois, Ohio in part, and the Michigan 

The following year, 1780, on the urgent recommenda 
tion of Mr Jefferson, and in compliance with the wishes 
of Congress, a resolution passed the legislature, ceding 
to the United States the whole of this vast extent of ter 
ritory. This important event removed the great obsta 
cle to the ratification of the confederacy between the 
States. Upon transmitting the resolution to the Presi 
dent of Congress, the governor wrote : I shall be ren 
dered very happy if the other States of the union, 
equally impressed with the necessity of the important 
convention in prospect, shall be willing to sacrifice equal- 


ly to its completion. This single event, could it take 
place shortly, would outweigh every success which the 
enemy have hitherto obtained, and render desperate the 
hopes to which those successes have given birth. 

To this resolution, were appended the well known sen 
timents of Mr Jefferson with respect to the navigation of 
the Mississippi, and the necessity of securing a free port 
at the mouth of that river. 

In the course of one month after the adoption of this 
measure, the confederation was completed. 

On the first of June, 1780, Mr Jefferson was re-elected / 
governor by the unanimous vote of the legislature. ! 
During his second gubernatorial term, Virginia, which 
had hitherto been distant from the seat of war, was des 
tined to be made the theatre of a campaign more ardu 
ous, perilous and distressing, than that of any other pe 
riod of the revolution. Three systematic invasions by 
numerous and veteran armies, inundated the State, in 
quick and terrible succession ; nor could there have been 
a more unfavorable concurrence of circumstances, for 
offering an adequate resistance, than existed during the 
whole time these operations were carried on. Virginia 
was completely defenceless ; her physical resources were 
exhausted ; her troops had been drawn off to the South 
and to the North, to meet the incessant demands in those 
quarters, and the continental army was too much re 
duced to afford her any important succors. The militia 
constituted the only force on which any reliance could 
be placed ; and the resort to this force was limited by 
the deficiency of arms, which was aggravated by the 
pressing destitution of the finances. Indeed, the gene 
ral condition of the country at the South, exhibited a de 
plorable aspect. The city of Charleston, with the main 
body of the continental army, had fallen into the hands 
of Lord Cornwallis ; arid the victor, inflated with suc 
cess, had proclaimed his intention of pushing his advan 
ces northward, on a magnificent scale of conquest, sub- 



jugating in his course the entire States of North Caro 
lina and Virginia, and devoting the inhabitants to uncon 
ditional submission or the sword. 

Intelligence of these menacing calculations had no 
sooner reached Virginia, than the governor commenced 
the most vigorous measures for recruiting the army, and 
putting the country in a firm posture of defence. For 
this purpose, he was invested by the legislature with 
new and extraordinary powers. Should the State be in 
vaded, 20,000 militia were placed at his disposal ; he 
was empowered to impress provisions and other articles 
for the public service, and likewise to lay an embargo in 
the ports of the commonwealth, whenever expedient. 
He was authorized to confine or remove all persons sus 
pected of disaffection ; and to subject to martial law in 
dividuals acting as spies or guides to the enemy, or in 
any manner aiding, abetting, and comforting them, or 
disseminating among the militia the seeds of discontent, 
mutiny and revolt. He was directed to perfect the labo 
ratory for the manufacture of arms, which had of late 
been languishing ; and at the same time, to provide mag 
azines for warlike stores. To meet the pecuniary exi 
gencies of the times, paper emissions were necessarily 
multiplied ; and new taxes were devised. 

These defensive arrangements were scarcely made, 
when their execution was suddenly suspended by the 
appearance in the Chesapeake, of a strong British 
armament, under the command of General Leslie. Re 
sistance by maritime means being unavailable at this 
juncture, the governor immediately collected as large a 
body of militia as he could equip, to prevent the de 
barkation of the enemy ; but the alarm of the inhabit 
ants, whose first care was to secure their wives, children, 
and inoveable property, together with the insufficiency 
of arms, rendered his exertions ineffectual. It was to 
him a source of anguish and mortification, to think that 
a people, able and zealous to repel the invader, should 



be reduced to impotence by the want of defensive weap 
ons. The enemy landed at different points, but soon 
concentrated their forces in Portsmouth, fortified them 
selves, and remained in close quarters until they re 
treated on board their ships. It appears this force had 
been detached by Cornvvallis to invade Virginia by 
water, occupy Portsmouth for the purposes of support 
and safe rendezvous, and join the main army under his 
command, on its entrance by land into the southern 
borders of the State. But the precipitate retreat of 
Cornwallis into South Carolina, in consequence of seri 
ous reverses in that quarter, defeated Leslie s anticipat 
ed junction with the main army, and compelled his sud 
den departure from the State, leaving his works unfinish 
ed and undestroyed. The principal injury resulting 
from this invasion, was the loss of a quantity of cattle 
intended for the southern army, which were seized by 
the enemy immediately after disembarking. Indeed, 
the conduct of this detachment whilst in Virginia, was 
an honorable exception, in all respects, to the predatory 
system which had hitherto marked the footsteps of 
British conquest. I must, writes the governor to 
General Washington, do their general and commander 
the justice to observe, that in every case, which their 
attention and influence could reach, as far as I have 
been informed, their conduct was such as does them the 
greatest honor. In the few instances of wanton and un 
necessary devastation, they punished the aggressors. 
To the firmness of Mr Jefferson in the case of Hamilton, 
history ascribes in great part, this reputable deviation 
from a mode of warfare which all mankind must abhor.* 
This hostile armament had scarcely left the coast, 
when Virginia was surprised by another invasion, of a 
more formidable character, from an unexpected quarter. 
The parricide Arnold, apprised of the vulnerable condi- 

* History of Virginia, vol. 4, p. 421. 



tion of Virginia on the sea-board, undertook a second 
attack by a naval force. He embarked from New York, 
at the instance of Sir Henry Clinton, and on the 30th of 
December, 1780, was seen entering the Capes of Vir 
ginia with twenty-seven sail of vessels. He ascended 
James river and landed about fifteen miles below Rich 
mond. On the approach of a hostile force into the heart 
of the State, the inhabitants were thrown into consterna 
tion. The governor made every effort for calling in a 
sufficient body of militia to resist the incursion ; but, be 
ing dispersed over a large tract of country, they could 
be collected but slowly. Richmond being evidently the 
object of their attack, every effort was necessary for im 
mediately securing the arms, military stores, records, 
&>c, from the ravages of the profligate invader. He 
hastily embodied about two hundred half armed militia, 
for the purpose of protecting the removal of the records, 
military stores, &c, to the opposite side of James river. 
He superintended their movements in person ; and was 
seen urging by his presence, the business of transporta 
tion, and issuing his orders, until the enemy had actually 
entered the lower part of the town, preceded by a body 
of light horse. Soon after the whole regiment poured 
into Richmond, and commenced the work of pillage 
and conflagration. They burnt the foundry, the boring- 
mill, the roagazine, a number of dwelling-houses, the 
books and papers of the auditor s and council office, and 
retired the next day. Within less than forty-eight hours, 
they had penetrated thirty-three miles into the country, 
committed the whole injury, and retreated down the 
river. The governor himself narrowly escaped being 
taken, owing to the suddenness of the attack, and his 
continuance on the scene of danger at an unreasonable 
hour, for the purpose of securing the public property. 
He had previously sent his family to Tuckahoe, eight 
miles above Richmond, on the same side of the river; 
but did not join them himself until 1 o clock in the night. 


He returned the next morning, and continued his per 
sonal attendance in the vicinity of the metropolis during 
the whole invasion, to the imminent exposure of his 

Arnold shortly after encamped at Portsmouth, where 
he remained for a long time, in close quarters. The 
capture of this execrable traitor had, from the moment 
of his perfidy, been an object of eager pursuit with all 
the patriots. Mr Jefferson was induced to consider it 
practicable while in his present extremity, and secretly 
offering a reward of 5000 guineas for his apprehension, 
incited some venturous spirits to undertake it, by strata 
gem. But Arnold had become cautious and circum 
spect, beyond the reach of artifice. He lay buried in 
close confinement at Portsmouth, suffered no stranger to 
approach him, and never afterwards unguardedly ex 
posed his person. The enterprise was thus rendered 

The real situation of Virginia, at this period, is de 
picted in the letters arid dispatches of the governor. 
The fatal want of arms, he wrote on the 8th of Feb 
ruary, puts it out of our power to bring a greater force 
into the field than will barely suffice to restrain the 
adventures of the pitiful body of men the enemy have at 
Portsmouth. Should they be reinforced, the country 
will be perfectly open to them by land as well as by 
water. I have been knocking at the door of Con 
gress, he again wrote on the 17th, for aids of all 
kinds, but especially of arms, ever since the middle of 
summer. The speaker, Harrison, is gone to be heard 
on that subject. Justice, indeed, requires that we should 
be aided powerfully. Yet, if they would only repay us 
the arms we have lent them, we should give the enemy 
trouble, though abandoned to ourselves. On the same 
day, he addressed the commander-in-chief, as follows: 
Arms and a naval force, are the only means of salva 
tion for Virginia* Two days a.gOj I received informa- 

170 LIFE OF 

tion of the arrival of a sixty-four gun ship and two frig 
ates, in our bay, being part of the fleet of our good ally, 
at Rhode-Island. Could they get at the British ships, 
they are sufficient to destroy them, but these are drawn 
up into Elizabeth river, into which the sixty-four cannot 
enter. I apprehend they could do nothing more than 
block up the river. This, indeed, would reduce the 
enemy, as we could cut off their supplies by land ; but 
the operation requiring much time, would probably be 
too dangerous for the auxiliary force. Not having yet 
had any particular information of the designs of the 
French commander, I cannot pretend to say what mea 
sures this will lead to. 

This desperate situation of affairs was aggravated by 
the arrival in the bay, of two thousand additional British 
troops, under the command of Major General Phillips. 
This reinforcement shortly after formed a junction with 
Arnold, and the combined forces, under Phillips, imme 
diately renewed on a more extensive scale than hereto 
fore, their system of predatory and incendiary incursions 
into all parts of the unprotected country. They cap 
tured and laid waste Williamsburg, Petersburg, and 
several minor settlements ; and pursued their destroying 
advances from village to village, until they were arrested 
by the gallant defender of universal liberty the im 
mortal La Fayette. 

During the ferocious and discursive operations of Phil 
lips and Arnold, the governor remained constantly in 
and about Richmond, exerting all his powers to collect 
the militia, and provide such means for the defence of 
the State, as its exhausted resources allowed. Never 
assuming a guard, and with only the river between him 
and the enemy, his lodgings were frequently within four 
or five miles of them, and his personal exposure was 
consequently very great. 

But the final movement against Virginia, compared to 
which the previous invasions were feeble and desultory 


efforts, remains to be noticed. On the 20th of May, 
1781, Lord Cornwallis entered the State, on the south 
ern frontier, with an army of four thousand men. His 
entry was almost triumphal. Proceeding directly to 
Petersburg, where he formed a junction with the forces 
under Phillips and Arnold, he established his head quar 
ters, and commenced his plan of subduing the whole 

This alarming event happened but a few days previous 
to the close of Mr Jefferson s administration ; and, in 
view of the impending crisis, he felt it his duty, before 
resigning the government into other hands, to make one 
last, solemn appeal to the commander in chief, for those 
important succors, on which now evidently depended the 
salvation of the commonwealth. 

Your excellency will 

judge from this state of things, and from what you know 
of our country, what it may probably suffer during the 
present campaign. Should the enemy be able to pro 
duce no opportunity of annihilating the Marquis s army, 
a small proportion of their force may yet restrain his 
movements effectually, while the greater part are em 
ployed, in detachment, to waste an unarmed country, 
and lead the minds of the people to acquiescence under 
those events, which they see no human power prepared 
to ward off". We are too far removed from the other 
scenes of war to say, whether the main force of the en 
emy be within this State. But I suppose they cannot 
any where spare so great an army for the operations of 
the field. Were it possible for this circumstance to jus 
tify in your excellency, a determination to lend us your 
personal aid, it is evident from the universal voice, that 
the presence of their beloved countryman, whose talents 
have so long been successfully employed in establishing 
the freedom of kindred States, to whose person, they 
have still flattered themselves they retained some right, 
and have ever looked up, as their dernier resort in dis 
tress, would restore full confidence of salvation to our 
citizens, and would render them equal to whatever is not 

172 LIFE OF 

impossible. I cannot undertake to foresee and obviate 
the difficulties which lie in the way of such a resolution. 
The whole subject is before you, of which I see only de 
tached parts : and your judgment will be formed on a 
view of the whole. Should the danger of this State, 
and its consequence to the union, be such, as to render 
it best for the whole that you should repair to its assist 
ance, the difficulty would then be, how to keep men out 
of the field. I have undertaken to hint this matter to 
your excellency, not only on my own sense- of its im 
portance to us, but at the solicitations of many members 
of weight in our legislature, which has not yet assembled 
to speak their own desires. 

A. few days will bring to me that relief which the 
constitution has prepared for those oppressed with the 
labors of my office; and a long declared resolution of re 
linquishing it to abler hands, has prepared my way for re 
tirement to a private station : still, as an individual, I 
should feel the comfortable effects of your presence, and 
have (what I thought could not have been) an additional 
motive for that gratitude, esteem, and respect, with 
which I have the honor to be, &c. 

This letter was written three days previous to the ex 
piration of his second gubernatorial year ; at which 
time, he had long cherished the determination of relin 
quishing the administration in favor of a successor, whose 
habits, dispositions and pursuits would render him better 
fitted for the supreme direction of affairs at such a crisis. 
From the belief, said he, that, under the pressure of 
the invasion, under which we were then laboring, the 
public would have more confidence in a military chief, 
and that the military commander being invested with 
the civil power also, both might be wielded with more 
energy, promptitude and effect for the defence of the 
State, I resigned the administration at the end of my 
second year, and General Nelson was appointed to suc 
ceed me. His successor was elected, on the 12th of 
June, 1781. 

The closing events of Mr Jefferson s administration 


having excited much attention, and occasioned some 
misrepresentation, a few additional observations, found 
ed on authentic documents, seem due to that portion of 
his public history. 

Ever since the invasion of the metropolis, under Ar 
nold, in January, 81, and the sudden dispersion by that 
event, of the general assembly, the legislative functions 
of the government had been almost totally suspended. 
The members had re-assembled on the first of March, 
but after a few days session, were compelled to adjourn ; 
they met again on the 7th of May, but the movements 
of the enemy, again compelled them, on the 10th, to ad- 
journ to Charlottesville, to meet on the 24th. During 
this long and critical interval, therefore, the main bur 
den of public affairs had devolved on the governor. 

In addition to the multiplied irruptions from the East 
and the South, Virginia had had a powerful army to op 
pose on her western frontier. The English and Indians 
were incessantly harassing her in that quarter, by their 
savage incursions. At length, the powerful army under 
Cornwallis poured into the State, and filled up the meas 
ure of public danger and distress. The legislature, 
which had hastily adjourned from Richmond to Char 
lottesville, had scarcely assembled at the latter place, 
when they were driven thence by the enemy, over the 
mountains to Staunton. This was on the last days of 
May. Pursued and hunted in this manner, from county 
to county, with the armies of the enemy in the heart of 
the State, destitute of internal resources, and aided only 
by the small regular force under La Fayette, many mem 
bers of that assembly became dissatisfied, discouraged, 
desperate; and in the frenzy of the moment, began 
to resuscitate the deceased project of a dictator. Some, 
indeed, were so infatuated as to deem the measure not 
only salutary, but as presenting the only hope of deliv- 

174 LIFE OF 

erance at this juncture. An individual,* who had borne 
a distinguished part in the anterior transactions of the 
revolution, was already designated for the office. But 
it was foreseen with dismay by those who desired a dic 
tator, that no headway could be made with such a prop 
osition, against the popularity and influence of the pres 
ent executive ; it was necessary, as a first measure, that 
he should be rendered powerless. For this purpose, his 
official character was attacked ; the misfortunes of the 
period were imputed to the imbecility of his administra 
tion ; he was impeached in a loose, informal way, and 
a day for some species of hearing, at the succeeding 
session of the assembly, was appointed. But no evi 
dence was ever offered to sustain the impeachment ; no 
question was ever taken upon it, disclosing in any man 
ner, the approbation of the legislature ; and the hearing 
was appointed by general consent, for the purpose, as 
many members expressed themselves, of giving Mr Jef 
ferson an opportunity of demonstrating the absurdity of 
the censure. Indeed, the whole effort at impeachment 
was a mere feint, designed to remove Mr Jefferson out 
of the way for the present, and to make manifest, if 
possible, the necessity of a dictator. It failed, however, 
in both objects ; the effect on Mr Jefferson was entirely 
the reverse of what had been intended ; and as to the 
proposed dictatorship, the pulse of the assembly was in 
cidentally felt in the debates on the state of the com 
monwealth, and in out-door conversations, the general 
tone of which foretold such a violent opposition to the 
measure, that the original movers were induced to aban 
don it with precipitation. This was the second instance 
of a similar attempt in that State, and of a similar re 
sult, caused chiefly by the ascendancy of the same in 

While these things were going on at Staunton, Mr 

* Mr Henry. 


Jefferson was distant from the scene of action, at Bed 
ford, neither interfering himself, nor applied to by the 
legislature for any information touching the charges pre 
ferred against him ; but so soon as the project for a dic 
tator was dropped, his resignation of the government ap 
peared. This produced a new scene ; the dictator men 
insisted upon re-electing him ; but his friends strenuous 
ly opposed it, on the ground, that as he had divested 
himself of the government to heal the divisions of the 
legislature, at that critical season, for the public good, 
and to meet the accusation upon equal terms, for his own 
honor, his motives were too strong to be relinquished. 
Still, on the nomination of General Nelson, the most 
popular man in the State, and without an enemy in the 
legislature, a considerable portion of the assembly voted 
for Mr Jefferson. 

On the day appointed for the hearing before men 
tioned, Mr Jefferson appeared in the house of dele 
gates, having been intermediately elected a member. 
No one offered himself as his accuser. Mr George 
Nicholas, who had been seduced to institute the pro 
ceeding, and who afterwards paid him deference equally 
honorable to both,* had satisfied himself, in the interim, 
of the utter groundlessness of the charges, and declined 
the farther prosecution of the affair. Mr Jefferson 
nevertheless rose in his seat, addressed the house in 
general terms upon the subject, and expressed his readi 
ness to answer any accusations which might be prefer 
red against him. Silence ensued. Not a word of cen 
sure was whispered. After a short pause, the following 
resolution was proposed, and adopted unanimously by 
both houses. f 

* G. Nicholas letter to his constituents Kentucky. 

t Most of this relation is copied with verbal precision from the 
statement of an eye witness of the whole transaction, inserted in 
the Appendix to the Continuation of Burk s History of Virginia. 

176 LIFE OF 

Resolved, That the sincere thanks of the general 
assembly, be given to our former governor, THOMAS JEF 
FERSON, Esq. for his impartial, upright and attentive ad 
ministration, whilst in office. The assembly wish in the 
strongest, manner to declare the high opinion which they 
entertain of Mr Jefferson s ability, rectitude, and in 
tegrity, as chief magistrate of this commonwealth, and 
mean, by thus publicly avowing their opinion, to obviate 
and to remove all unmerited censure. 

A few days after the expiration of Mr Jefferson s con 
stitutional term of office, and before the appointment of 
his successor, an incident occurred which has been so 
strangely misrepresented in later times, as to justify a 
relation of the details. 

Learning that the general assembly was in session at 
Charlottesville, Cornwallis detached the ferocious Tarl- 
ton, to proceed to that place, take the members by sur 
prise, seize on the person of Mr Jefferson, whom they 
supposed still in office, and spread devastation and terror 
on his route. 

Elated with the idea of an enterprise so congenial to 
his disposition, and confident of an easy prey, Tarlton 
selected a competent body of men, and proceeded with 
ardor on his expedition. Early in the morning of June 
4th, when within about ten miles of his destination, he 
detached a troop of horse under captain M Cleod, to 
Monticello, the well known seat of Mr Jefferson ; and 
proceeded himself with the main body, to Charlottes 
ville, were he expected to find the legislature unapprised 
of his movement. The alarm, however, had been con 
veyed to Charlottesville, about sunrise the same morn 
ing, and thence quickly to Monticello, only three miles 
distant. The speakers of the two houses were lodging 
with Mr Jefferson at his house. His guests had barely 
time to hurry to Charlottesville, adjourn the legislature 
to Staunton, and, with most of the other members, to 
effect their escape. He immediately ordered his car- 


riage, in which Mrs Jefferson and her children were 
conveyed to the house of colonel Carter, on the neigh 
boring mountain, while himself tarried behind, break 
fasted as usual, and completed some necessary arrange 
ments preparatory to his departure. Suddenly, a mes 
senger, lieutenant Hudson, who had descried the rapid 
advance of the enemy, drove up at half speed, arid gave 
him a second and last alarm ; stating that the enemy 
were already ascending the winding road which leads 
to the summit of Monticello, and urging his immediate 
flight. He then calmly ordered his riding horse, which 
was shoeing at a neighboring blacksmith s, directing him 
to be led to a gate opening on the road to colonel Car 
ter s, whither he walked by a cross path, mounted his 
horse, and instead of taking the high road, plunged into 
the woods of the adjoining mountain and soon rejoined 
his family. 

In less than ten minutes after Mr Jefferson s depar 
ture, his house was surrounded by the impetuous light 
horse, thirsting for their prey. They entered the man 
sion with a flush of expectation proportioned to the 
value of their supposed victim ; and, notwithstanding 
the chagrin and irritation which their disappointment ex 
cited, an honorable regard was manifested for the usages 
of enlightened nations at war. Mr Jefferson s property 
was respected, especially his books and papers, by the 
particular injunctions of M Cleod. 

This is the famous adventure of Carter s mountain. 
Had the facts been accidentally stated, it would have 
appeared that this favorite fabrication amounted to no 
thing more, than that Mr Jefferson did not remain in his 
house, and there fight, single handed, a whole troop of 
horse, whose main body, too, was within supporting 
distance, or suffer himself to be taken prisoner. It is 
somewhat singular, that this egregious offence was never 
heard of until many years after, when most of that 
generation had disappeared, and a new one risen up. 

178 LIFE OP 

Although the whole affair happened some days before 
the abortive attempt at impeachment, neither his con 
duct on this occasion, nor his pretended flight from 
Richmond, in January previous, were included among 
the charges. 

Having accompanied his family one day s journey, 
Mr Jefferson returned to Monticello. Finding the ene 
my gone, with few traces of depredation, he again re 
joined his family, and proceeded with them to an estate 
he owned in Bedford ; where, galloping over his farm 
one day, he was thrown from his horse and disabled 
from riding on horse-back for a considerable time. But 
the partizan version of the story found it more con 
venient to give him this fall in his retreat before Tarlton, 
some weeks before, as a proof that he withdrew from a 
troop of horse, with a precipitancy which Don Quixote 
would not have practised. 

M Cleod tarried about eighteen hours at Monticello, 
and Tarlton about the same time at Charlottesville, 
when the detachments reunited and retired to Elkhill, 
a plantation of Mr Jefferson s. At this place, Corn- 
wallis had now encamped with the main army, and 
established his head quarters. Some idea may be form 
ed of the Vandalism practised by the British, during 
their continuance at Elkhill and the whole succeeding 
part of that campaign, from the fact that their devasta 
tions in those six months are estimated by Mr Jefferson 
at about three millions sterling. Under Cornwallis s 
hands, Virginia lost about thirty thousand slaves that 
year. Wherever he went, the country was plundered of 
every thing which could be carried off; but over Mr 
Jefferson s possessions he seemed to range with a spirit 
of total extermination. He destroyed all his growing 
crops of corn and tobacco ; burned all his barns, con 
taining the last year s crops ; used, as was to be ex 
pected, all his stock of cattle, sheep, and hogs, for the 
sustenance of his army ; carried off all his horses capa- 


ble of service, cutting the throats of the rest ; and 
burned all the fences on the plantation, so as to leave it 
an absolute waste. 

We are now hurried from the scenes of war and con 
fusion, to a delightful i interval in Mr Jefferson s life 
in which he recurred with eagerness to the pursuits of 

During the early part of the turbulent year of 81, 
while disabled from active employment by the fall from 
his horse, he found sufficient leisure to compose his cele 
brated Notes on Virginia. This was the only original 
publication in which he ever embarked ; nor was the 
work prepared with the most distant intention of com 
mitting it to the press. Its history is a little curious. 

M. de Marbois, of the French legation, in Philadel 
phia, having been instructed by his government to obtain 
such statistical accounts of the different States of the 
Union, as might be useful for their information, address 
ed a letter to Mr Jefferson, containing a number of que 
ries relative to the State of Virginia. These queries 
embraced an extensive range of objects, and were de 
signed to elicit a general view of the geography, natural 
productions, government, history, and laws of the com 
monwealth. Mr Jefferson had always made it a practice, 
when travelling, to commit his observations to writing; 
and to improve every opportunity, by conversations with 
the inhabitants and by personal examination, to enlarge 
his stock of information on the physical and moral con 
dition of the country. 

These memoranda were on loose pieces of paper, pro- 
ynscuously intermixed, and difficult of arrangement, 
when occasion required the use of any particular one. 
He improved the present opportunity, therefore, to di 
gest and embody the substance of them, in the order of 
M. de Marbois queries, so as to gratify the wishes of the 
French government, and arrange them for his own con- 

180 LIFE OF 

venience. Some friends, to whom they were occasional 
ly communicated in manuscript, requested copies ; but 
their volume rendering the business of transcribing too 
laborious, he proposed to get a few printed, for their pri 
vate gratification. He was asked such a price, however, 
as exceeded in his opinion, the importance of the object, 
and abandoned the idea. Subsequently, on his arrival 
in Paris in 84, he found the printing could be obtained 
for one fourth part of what had been required in America. 
He thereupon revised and corrected the work, and had two 
hundred copies printed, under the modest title which it 
bears. He gave out a very few copies to his particular 
friends in Europe, writing in each one a restraint against 
its publication ; and the remainder he transmitted to his 
friends in America. An European copy on the death of 
the owner, having fallen into the hands of a Paris book 
seller, he engaged a hireling translation, and sent it into 
the world in the worst form possible. I never had 
seen, says the author, * so wretched an attempt at trans 
lation. Interverted, abridged, mutilated, and often re 
versing the sense of the original, I found it a blotch of 
errors from beginning to end. Under these circumstan 
ces, he was urged in self defence to comply with the re 
quest of a London bookseller to publish the English 
original ; which he accordingly did. By this means, it 
soon became the property of the public, and advanced 
to a high degree of popularity. The work has since 
been translated into all the principal tongues of Europe, 
and ran through a large number of editions in England, 
France,* and America. 

Under the query relative to the several charters of th o 
State, and its present form of government, Mr Jefferson 
presents a compact statistical view of the colony, from 
the first settlement under the grant of Queen Elizabeth, 

* The celebrated Abbe Morellet published a translation of his 
Notes, in 1786. 


in 1584, down to the time at which he writes ; gives the 
outlines of the existing constitution, and enumerates 
what he considers its capital defects. 

A brief notice of these defects, and the remedies 
which he proposed, will explain more fully, as was prom 
ised, the opinions of Mr Jefferson on the constitution of 
Virginia, being the first republican charter ever known. 
In the appendix to the volume under notice, is inserted a 
new constitution, prepared by himself in 1783, when it 
was expected the Assembly of Virginia would call a con 
vention for remodelling the old one an event which he 
long and vainly desired to see. This draught corre 
sponds, in all its main features, with the one prepared by 
him while in Congress, in 177C, and transmitted to the 
convention in Virginia then sitting for that purpose, 
though received too late to be adopted. 

Among the palpable defects of the existing establish 
ment, he enumerates : 1. The want of universal suffrage, 
or rather such an extension of the elective franchise, 
as would give a voice in the government to all those who 
pay and fight for its support. This is the vital principle 
of a pure democracy ; and Mr Jefferson appears to have 
been the first politician of whom we have any informa 
tion, who ventured forth publicly as its advocate. Pos 
sessed of a large estate himself, and gratified with the 
enjoyment of every honor, no personal ambition could 
be supposed to enter into his motives, and his opinion 
was received with great deference. The principle has 
since been incorporated, with greater or less modifica 
tions, into the constitutions of almost all the States. 
The predominance of the landed influence, family aris~ 
tocracy, and a general repugnance to risking innova 
tions, have hitherto retained the freehold qualification in 
Virginia; though its rigor has been modified by recent 
amendments. The success of the experiment, wherever 
it has been tried, has abundantly tested the soundness of 
the principle. 


182 LIFE OF 

2. Inequality of representation. This deformity per 
vaded the first republican charter of Virginia, to an as 
tonishing degree. Mr Jefferson detects and exposes the 
evil in a strong light, by a tabular statement of the rela 
tive number of electors and representatives in each coun 
ty ; and calls the attention of his countrymen to the sub 
ject, in an impressive manner. According to his state 
ment, the .county of Warwick, with only one hundred 
electors, had an equal representation with the county of 
Loudon, having 1700 electors ; and taking the State at 
large, 19,000 men in one part, were enabled to give law 
to upwards of 30,000 in the remaining part. This de 
fect was remedied by the late revision of the constitution. 
/ 3. The senate is necessarily too homogeneous with the 
house of delegates. Being chosen by the same elec 
tors, at the same time, and out of the same subjects, the 
choice falls of course on the same description of men ; 
defeating thereby the great purpose of establishing dif 
ferent houses of legislation, which is to introduce the 
influence of different interests or different principles. 

4. The want of a sufficient barrier between the legis 
lative, judiciary, and executive powers of the govern 
ment. The concentration of these in the same hands 
constituted, in his opinion, the precise definition of des 
potism. By the constitution of Virginia, they all result 
ed to the same body, the legislature, though they were 
exercised by different bodies. He proclaims a solemn 
warning against this heresy, and invokes an immediate 
application of the remedy ; urging, that the time to 
guard against corruption and tyranny, is before they 
shall have seized the heads of the government, and been 
spread by them through the body of the people. 

5 and 6. Finally, as objections of the greatest magni 
tude, Mr Jefferson argued that the constitution itself was 
a mere legislative ordinance, enacted at a critical time 
for a temporary purpose, not superior to the ordinary 
legislature, but alterable by it ; and that the assembly, 


possessing the right, as they did, of determining a quo 
rum of their own body, might convert the government 
into an absolute despotism at any moment, by consolida 
ting its powers, and placing them in the hands of a sin 
gle individual. To the joint operation of these two de 
fects, aided by the inauspicious temper of the times, he 
ascribed the infatuated attempt of the legislature, in 
1776, repeated .in 81, to surrender the liberties of the 
people into the hands of a dictator. He concludes his 
remarks upon the constitution by a solemn appeal to the 
people, for their speedy interposition. 

Our situation is indeed perilous, and I hope my 
countrymen will be sensible of it, and will apply, at a 
proper season, the proper remedy; which is a conven 
tion to fix the constitution, to amend its defects, to bind 
up the several branches of government by certain Jaws, 
which, when they transgress, their acts shall become 
nullities ; to render unnecessary an appeal to the peo 
ple, or in other words, a rebellion, on every infraction 
of their rights, on the peril that their acquiescence shall 
be construed into an intention to surrender those rights. 

Under the enquiry concerning the administration of 
justice, &c, the author presents a view of the judiciary 
system of Virginia, framed, indeed, by himself, in 76 
with a general description of the laws. He alludes to 
the revised code, as a work which had been executed 
by three gentlemen glances at the most important 
reformations which it introduced, but carefully conceals 
every circumstance which might indicate his participa 
tion in that structure of republican jurisprudence. In 
commenting upon the provisions recommended in this 
code, for the future disposition of the blacks, the genius 
of the author appears again in its favorite element. He 
insists upon colonization to a distant country, as the 
only safe and practicable mode of ultimate redemption ; 
and urges strong reasons of policy as well as necessity 
against their being retained in the State, and incorpo- 

184 LIFE OF 

rated among the race of whites. Deep-rooted preju 
dices entertained by the whites ; ten thousand recollec 
tions by the blacks, of the injuries they have sustained ; 
new provocations ; the real distinctions which nature 
has made ; and many other circumstances, will divide 
us into parties, and produce convulsions, which will pro 
bably never end, but in the extermination of the one or 
the other race. To these distinctions, which are politi 
cal, he adds many others, which are physical and moral. 
But space is not allowed us to pursue the subject, or to 
follow the author through his investigation of the ques 
tion, whether the blacks and the Indians are inferior 
races of beings to the whites. Making all due allow 
ances for the difference of condition, education, &c, be 
tween the blacks and whites, still the evidences were too 
strong, in his opinion, not to admit doubts of the intel 
lectual equality of the two species. Of the former, 
many have been so situated that they might have availed 
themselves of the conversation of their masters ; many 
have been brought up to the handicraft arts, and from 
that circumstance, have always been associated with the 
whites. Some have been liberally educated, have lived 
in countries where the arts and sciences are cultivated 
to a high degree, and have had before their eyes, sam 
ples of the best workmanship, and of the noblest intelli 
gence. 4 But never yet, he adds, * could I find a black 
that had uttered a thought above the level of plain nar 
ration ; nor seen even an elementary trait of painting 
or sculpture. Still, it was not against experience to 
suppose, that different species of the same genus, or 
varieties of the same species, might possess different 
qualifications. The Indians, on the other hand, with 
none of the advantages above named, will often carve 
figures on their pipes, not destitute of design and merit. 
They will crayon out an animal, a plant, or a country, 
so as to prove the existence of a germ in their minds, 
which only wants cultivation. They will astonish you 


with strokes of the most sublime oratory, such as prove 
their reason and sentiment strong, their imagination 
glowing and elevated. 

On the whole, therefore, he advanced it as his opin 
ion, that the Indians are equal to the whites, in body 
and mind ; and as a problem only, that the blacks, whe 
ther originally a distinct race, or made so by time and 
circumstances, are inferior to them. To justify a con 
clusion, in the latter case, required observations which 
eluded the research of all the senses ; it should, there 
fore, be hazarded with extreme caution, especially when 
such conclusion would degrade a whole race of men 
from the rank in the scale of beings, which their Crea 
tor may, perhaps, have assigned them. The difference 
of color, feature, inclination, &c, is sufficient to warrant 
the presumption, that they were designed for a separate 
existence ; but it furnishes no evidence of the right to 
enslave and torment them a,s mere brutes. * Will not a 
lover of natural history then, he concludes, * one who 
views the gradations in all the races of animals, with the 
eye of philosophy, excuse an effort to keep these in the 
department of man as distinct as nature has formed 
them ? 

The unhappy influence of slavery upon the manners 
and morals of the people, is forcibly pourtrayed in a . 
succeeding chapter. 

6 The whole commerce between master and slave is a 
perpetual exercise of the most boisterous passions, the 
most unremitting despotism on the one part, and degrad 
ing submission on the other. Our children see this, and 
learn to imitate it ; for man is an imitative animal. 
This quality is the germ of all education in him. From 
his cradle to his grave he is learning to do what he sees 
others do. If a parent could find no motive either in his 
philanthropy or his self-love, for restraining the intem 
perance of passion towards his slave, it should always 
be a sufficient one that his child is present. But gener 
ally it is not sufficient. The parent storms, the child 

186 LIFE OF 

looks on, catches the lineaments of wrath, puts on the 
same airs in the circle of smaller slaves, gives a loose to 
his worst passions, and thus nursed, educated, and daily 
exercised in tyranny, cannot but be stamped by it with 
odious peculiarities. The man must be a prodigy who 
can retain his manners and morals undepraved by such 
circumstances. And with what execration should the 
statesman be loaded, who, permitting one half the 
citizens thus to trample on the rights of the other, trans 
forms those into despots, and these into enemies ; de 
stroys the morals of the one part, and the love of country 
of the other. For if a slave can have a country in this 
world, it must be any other in preference to that in 
which he is born to live and labor for another : in which 
he must lock up the faculties of his nature, contribute as 
far as depends on his individual endeavors to the evan- 
ishment of the human race, or entail his own miserable 
condition on the endless generations proceeding from 

The freedom of Mr Jefferson s strictures on slavery 
and the constitution of Virginia, was the reason, it ap 
pears, for his confining the work originally to his confi 
dential friends. In his letters to them, accompanying 
the gift of a copy, he uniformly explains the motives by 
which he was actuated in restraining its circulation. In 
presenting a copy of the work to General Chastellux, 
he thus writes : 

1 1 have been honored with the receipt of your letter 
of the 2d instant, and am to thank you, as I do sincere 
ly, for the partiality with which you receive the copy of 
the Notes on my country. As I can answer for the 
facts therein reported on my own observation, and have 
admitted none on the report of others, which were not 
supported by evidence sufficient to command my own 
assent, I am not afraid that you should make any ex 
tracts you please for the Journal de Physique, which 
come within their plan of publication. The strictures 
on slavery and on the constitution of Virginia, are not of 
that kind, and they are the parts which I do not wish to 
have made public, at least, till I know whether their 


publication would do most harm or good. It is possible, 
that in my oivn country, these strictures might produce an 
irritation, which would indispose the people towards the two 
great objects I have in view ; that is, the emancipation of 
their slaves, and the settlement of their constitution on a 
firmer and more permanent basis. If I learn from thence, 
that they will not produce that effect, I have printed and 
reserved just copies enough to be able to give one to 
every young man at the college. It is to them I look, 
to the rising generation, and not to the one now in 
power, for these great reformations. 

In transmitting copies to his friends in America, he 
expresses the same lofty reasons ; of which the follow 
ing, in a letter to Mr Monroe, is a sample. 

4 1 send you by Mr Otto, a copy of my book. Be so 
good as to apologize to Mr Thompson for my not send 
ing him one by this conveyance. I could not burden 
Mr Otto with more, on so long a road as that from 
here to L Orient. I will send him one by a Mr Wil 
liams, who will go ere long. I have taken measures to 
prevent its publication. Sly reason is, that I fear the 
terms in which I speak of slavery, and of our constitu 
tion, may produce an irritation, which will revolt the 
minds of our countrymen against reformation in these 
two articles, and thus do more harm than good. I have 
asked of Mr Madison to sound this matter as far as he 
can, and if he thinks it will not produce that effect, I 
have then copies enough printed to give one to each of 
the young men at the college, and to my friends in the 

The remainder of this justly celebrated treatise, is 
occupied with useful details and learned dissertations, 
under the following heads of enquiry: The colleges, 
public establishments, and mode of architecture in Vir 
ginia The measures taken with regard to the estates 
and possessions of tories during the war The different 
religions received into the State The particular man 
ners and customs of the people The present state of 
manufactures, commerce, and agriculture The usual 

188 LIFE OF 

commodities of export and import The weights, mea 
sures, and currency in hard money, with the rates of 
exchange with Europe The public income and ex 
penses The histories of the State, the memorials pub 
lished under its name while a colony, and a chronologi 
cal catalogue of its State papers since the commence 
ment of the revolution. 

Perhaps the most celebrated portion of the whole 
work, is that which contains the opinions of the author 
on the subject of FREE ENQUIRY in matters of religion. 
The interest which all mankind feel on a point so vitally 
connected with the policy of our. government, and the 
freedom and happiness of its subjects, will justify a 
liberal quotation here, in concluding our remarks upon 
these invaluable Notes. TJie sentiments of the writer, 
although generally esteemed heretical and well nigh 
impious at the time, are now as generally reputed ortho 
dox and unquestionable. 

Reason and free inquiry are the only effectual agents 
against error. Give a loose to them, they will support 
the true religion, by bringing every false one to their 
tribunal, and to the test of their investigation. They 
are the natural enemies of error, and of error only. 
Had not the Roman government permitted free inquiry, 
Christianity could never have been introduced. Had 
not free inquiry been indulged at the era of the refor 
mation, the corruptions of Christianity could not have 
been purged away. If it be restrained now, the present 
corruptions will be protected, and new ones encouraged. 
Was the government to prescribe to us our medicine and 
diet, our bodies would be in such keeping as our souls 
are now. Thus in France, the emetic was once forbid 
den as a medicine, and the potatoe as an article of food. 
Government is just as infallible too when it fixes systems 
in physics. Galileo was sent to the inquisition for af 
firming that the earth was a sphere : the government 
had declared it to be as flat as a trencher, and Galileo 
was obliged to abjure his error. This error, however, at 
length prevailed, the earth became a globe, and Des- 


cartes declared it was whirled round its axis by a vortex. 
The government in which he lived was wise enough to 
see, that this was no question of civil jurisdiction, or we 
should all have been involved by authority in vortices. 
In fact, the vortices have been exploded, and the New 
tonian principle of gravitation is now more firmly es 
tablished, on the basis of reason, than it would be were 
the government to step in, and make it an article of ne 
cessary faith. Reason and experiment have been indulg 
ed, and error has fled before them. It is error alone 
which needs the support of government. Truth can 
stand by itself. Subject opinion to coercion : whom will 
you make your inquisitors 1 Fallible men ; men govern 
ed by bad passions, by private as well as public reasons. 
And why subject it to coercion ? To produce uniformity. 
But is uniformity of opinion desirable 1 No more than 
of face and stature. Introduce the bed of Procrustes 
then, and as there is danger that the great men may beat 
the small, make us all of a size, by lopping the former 
and stretching the latter. Difference of opinion is ad 
vantageous in religion. The several sects perform the 
office of a censor morum over each other. Is uniformity 
attainable 1 Millions of innocent men, women and chil 
dren, since the introduction of Christianity, have been 
burnt, tortured, fined and imprisoned; yet we have not 
advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been 
the effect of coercion 1 To make one half the world fools, 
and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and 
error all over the earth. Let us reflect that it is inhabited 
by a thousand millions of people. That these profess, 
probably, a thousand different systems of religion. That 
ours is but one of that thousand. That if there be but 
one right, and ours that one, we should wish to see the 
nine hundred and ninety-nine wandering sects gathered 
into the fold of truth. But against such a majority we 
cannot effect this by force. Reason and persuasion are 
the only practicable instruments. To make way for 
these, free inquiry must be indulged ; how can we wish 
others to indulge it while we refuse it ourselves. 

On the 15th of June, 1781, Mr Jefferson was appoint 
ed, with Mr Adams, Dr Franklin, Mr Jay, and Mr Lau- 


190 LIFE OP 

rens, a minister plenipotentiary for negotiating peace, 
then expected to be effected through the mediation of 
the empress of Russia. The same reasons, however, 
which induced him to decline a foreign station in 76 5 
constrained him on the present occasion, to plead his 
excuse with Congress and entreat permission to remain 
at home. * Such was the state of my family, says he, 
that I could not leave it, nor could I expose it to the 
dangers of the sea, and of capture by the British ships, 
then covering the ocean. This restraint released him 
from the meditated embassy ; and the negotiation in fact 
was never entered on. 

So imperfect is the light thrown on the private history 
of Mr Jefferson, that it was not thought proper to inter 
rupt the narrative of his public career, for those general 
facts only of a domestic character, which are incorpo 
rated in his recent auto-biography. He was married on 
the first of January, 1772, to Mrs Martha Skelton, widow 
of Bathurst Skelton, then twenty-three years of age. 
She was the daughter of John Wayles, a lawyer of ex 
tensive practice, to which he had been introduced, more 
by his great industry, punctuality, and practical readi 
ness, than by any eminence in the science of his pro 
fession. He is represented to have been a most agreea 
ble companion, full of pleasantry and good humor, 
which gave him a happy welcome into every society. 
He acquired an immense fortune by his practice at the 
bar, and died in May, 1773, leaving three daughters. 
The portion which fell, on that event, to Mrs Jefferson, 
was about equal to his own patrimony, and consequently 
doubled the affluence of their circumstances. 

At the period of which we have been speaking, he had 
three daughters ; in the education of whom, according to 
his own ideas, he carried into practical exercise all that 
enthusiasm, which had distinguished his public labors. 
With a mind attuned to all those endearments which 
make up the measure of domestic felicity, with a wife 


no less adapted to multiply and augment those endear 
ments to the full extent of which they are susceptible, 
with an uncommon passion for philosophy and the pur 
suits of agriculture, it is not surprising he should have 
preferred, as he afterwards declared, the woods, the 
wilds, arid the independence of Monticello, to all the 
brilliant pleasures of the most brilliant court in Europe. 
It was to him, therefore, a luxury, and one which he had 
not been permitted to enjoy since the commencement of 
the revolution, to pass, as he did, the remainder of the 
year 81, and a considerable part of the succeeding, in 
the pleasures and pursuits of domestic retirement. With 
the cares of his family, his books, and his farm, he min 
gled the gratification of his devotion to the fine arts, par 
ticularly architecture. He superintended minutely the 
construction of his elegant mansion, which had been 
commenced some years before, and was already in a 
habitable condition. The plan of the building was en 
tirely original in this country. He had drawn it himself 
from books, with a view to improve the architecture of 
his countrymen by introducing an example of the taste 
and the arts of Europe. The original structure, which 
was executed before his travels in Europe had supplied 
him with any models, is allowed by European travellers 
to have been infinitely superior in taste and convenience, 
to that of any other house at this time in America. * The 
fame of the Monticellian philosopher having already 
spread over Europe, his hospitable seat was made the 
resort of scientific adventurers and of travellers, from 
many parts of that continent. 

It may not be unsatisfactory to the reader, to have a 
picture of the patriot in his hermitage, as he appeared 
to the celebrated French traveller, General Chastellux : 
Let me describe to you a man, not yet forty; tall, and 

* See Travels of Duke de La Rochefoucault Liancourt, in Ame 
rica ; also, the Travels of Marquis de Chastellux 

192 LIFE OF 

with a mild and pleasing countenance, but whose mind 
and understanding are ample substitutes for every exte 
rior grace An American, who, without ever having 
quitted his own country, is at once a musician, skilled in 
drawing, a geometrician, an astronomer, a natural philo 
sopher, legislator, and statesman A senator of Amer 
ica, who sat for two years in that famous Congress, which 
brought about the revolution ; and which is never men 
tioned without respect, though unhappily not without 
regret A governor of Virginia, who filled this difficult 
station during the invasions of Arnold, of Phillips, and 
of Cornwallis A philosopher, in voluntary retirement 
from the world and public business, because he loves the 
world inasmuch only, as he can flatter himself with being 
useful to mankind ; and the minds of his countrymen are 
not yet in a condition either to bear the light, or to suf 
fer contradiction A mild and amiable wife, charming 
children, of whose education he himself takes charge, a 
house to embellish, great provisions, and the arts and 
sciences to cultivate; these are what remain to Mr 
Jefferson, after having played a principal character on 
the theatre of the new world, and which he preferred to 
the honorable commission of minister plenipotentiary in 

In the autumn of 82, assurances having been received 
from the British government that a general peace would 
be concluded in the ensuing winter or spring, Congress 
renewed the appointment of their plenipotentiaries for 
that purpose. A great and afflicting change had, at this 
time, taken place in the domestic relations of Mr Jef- 
fersoii ; and the reasons which before operated impera 
tively against his acceptance of the mission, were sud 
denly superseded by others as imperatively urging his 
absence from the seat of his dearest and most hallowed 
ties. The appointment was made on the 13th of No 
vember. I had, two months before that, says he, lost 



the cherished companion of my life, in whose affections, 
unabated on both sides, I had lived the last ten years, in 
unchequered happiness. With the public interests, there 
fore, the state of his mind concurred in recommending 
the change of scene proposed; and he accepted the ap 

He left Monticello on the 19th of December, 82, for 
Philadelphia, where he arrived on the 27th. The min 
ister of France, Luzerne, offered him a passage in the 
frigate Romulus, which he accepted ; but she was then 
lying a few miles below Baltimore, blockaded by ice. 
No other conveyance being available, he remained in 
Philadelphia a month. On his arrival, Congress had 
passed an order offering him free access to the archives 
of the government ; and he improved his leisure by a 
constant and daily attendance at the office of State, ex 
amining the public papers, to possess himself thoroughly 
of the state of our foreign affairs. He then proceeded 
to Baltimore, to await the liberation of the French fri 
gate from the ice. After being detained there nearly a 
month longer, information was received that a provision 
al-treaty of peace had been signed by those of the com 
missioners* who were on the spot, on the 3d of September, 
82 ; which treaty was to become absolute on the conclu 
sion of peace between France and Great Britain. Con 
sidering the object of his mission to Europe as now ac 
complished, he repaired immediately to Philadelphia to 
take the orders of Congress ; and was excused by them 
from farther proceeding. He therefore returned home, 
where he arrived on the 15th of May, 83. 

The appointment and re-appointment of Mr Jefferson 
to the embassy which resulted in the negotiation of the 
definitive treaty of peace with Great Britain, though but 
a fair tribute to his revolutionary services, have never 
been associated in history with that important event. 

* John Adams, Dr Franklin, John Jay, and Henry Laurens. 

194 LIFE OF 

The circumstances above detailed, alone prevented the 
addition of his signature to the treaty, which would ne 
cessarily have given the same honorable notoriety to his 
connection with the transaction, as is attached to his 
associate commissioners. 



ON the 6th of June, 1783, Mr Jefferson, whose capa 
bilities were never overlooked, was re-elected by the le 
gislature to his ancient station of delegate to Congress. 
His appointment was to take effect on the 1st of Novem 
ber ensuing, when the term of the existing delegation 
would have expired. He left home on the 16th of Oc 
tober, arrived at Trenton where Congress was sitting, 
on the 3d of November, and took his seat on the 4th ; 
on which day Congress adjourned, to meet at Annapolis 
on the 26th. 

Congress convened at Annapolis on the 26th of No 
vember, agreeably to adjournment ; but the pressure of 
public affairs having relaxed, the members had become 
proportionally remiss in their attendance, insomuch that 
a majority of the States necessary by the confederation 
to constitute a quorum, even for minor business, did not 
assemble until the 13th of December. 

On the 19th of the same month, the great conflict be 
ing over, and our national independence acknowledged 
by Great Britain, the illustrious general in chief of the 
American army requested permission of Congress to re 
sign his commission ; and with the deference ever paid 
by him to the civil authority, desired to know their pleas 
ure in what manner the grateful duty should be per 

Congress decreed that the commission should be de 
livered up at a PUBLIC AUDIENCE, on the 23d of Decem- 

196 LIFE, OF 

her, at twelve o clock ; and suitable arrangements were 
ordered for the occasion. The character sustained by 
Mr Jefferson in this affecting scene, will justify a general 
description of the circumstances. 

When the hour arrived for the performance of the 
ceremony, the galleries were overloaded with spectators; 
and many distinguished individuals, among whom were 
the executive and legislative characters of the States, 
several general officers, and the consul general of France, 
were admitted on the floor of Congress. From the first 
moment of peace, the public mind had been fixed intent 
ly upon General Washington. He stood on the pinnacle 
of military fame and power ; but his ambition was satis 
fied, for the liberties of his country had been gained ; 
and his admiring fellow citizens were now assembled to 
witness the execution of a purpose, deliberately and 
warmly embraced, of leaving to the world a great and 
solemn example of moderation. 

The representatives of the people of the union re 
mained seated and covered ; the spectators standing and 
uncovered. The general was introduced by the secreta 
ry, and conducted to a chair near the president of Con 
gress. After a proper interval, silence was commanded, 
and a short pause ensued. The president, general Mif- 
flin, then rose and informed him that the United States in 
Congress assembled, were prepared to receive his com 
munications. Washington rose, and with a native dig 
nity, delivered his affectionate address and valedictory. 

Having then advanced to the chair and delivered his 
commission to the president, he returned to his place, 
and received standing the following answer of the presi 
dent in the name of Congress. This paper was prepar 
ed by Mr Jefferson. 

Sir, The United States in Congress assembled, re 
ceive with emotions too affecting for utterance, the sol 
emn resignation of the authorities under which you have 
led their troops with success through a perilous and 


doubtful war. Called upon by your country to defend 
its invaded rights, you accepted the sacred charge, be 
fore it had formed alliances, and whilst it was without 
funds, or a government to support you. You have con 
ducted the great military contest with wisdom and forti 
tude, invariably regarding the rights of the civil power 
through all disasters and changes. You have, by the 
love and confidence of your fellow-citizens, enabled them 
to display their martial genius, and transmit their fame 
to posterity. You have persevered, till these United 
States, aided by a magnanimous king and nation, have 
been enabled, under a just providence, to close the war 
in freedom, safety and independence ; on which happy 
event, we sincerely join you in congratulations. 

* Having defended the standard of liberty in this new 
world ; having taught a lesson useful to those who in 
flict, and to those who feel oppression, you retire from 
the great theatre of action, with the blessings of your 
fellow citizens but the glory of your virtues will not 
terminate with your military command, it will continue 
to animate remotest ages. 

1 We feel with you our obligations to the army in gen 
eral, and will particularly charge ourselves with the in 
terests of those confidential officers, who have attended 
your person to this affecting moment. 

We join you in commending the interests of our dear 
est country to the protection of Almighty God, beseech 
ing Him to dispose the hearts and minds of its citizens, 
to improve the opportunity afforded them, of becoming 
a happy and respectable nation. And for you we ad 
dress to Him our earnest prayers, that a life so beloved, 
may be fostered with all His care ; that your days may 
be happy as they have been illustrious ; and that He will 
finally give you that reward which this world cannot 

On the same day, December 23d, measures were ta 
ken for ratifying the definitive treaty of peace, which 
had been signed at Paris on the 3d of ^September, 1783, 
and received here in November following. The treaty, 
with the joint letter of the American plenipotentiaries, 
was referred to a committee, of which Mr Jefferson was 

198 LIFE OF 

chairman, to consider and report thereon. The necessa 
ry house not being present, the committee were directed 
to address letters to the governors of the absent States 
stating the receipt of the definitive treaty ; that seven 
States only were in attendance, while nine were essen 
tial to its ratification ; and urging them to press on their 
delegates the necessity of an immediate attendance. 

Meanwhile, the house being restless under the delay, 
the opinion was advanced by several members that 
seven States were competent to confirm treaties ; and 
a motion was accordingly made for an immediate rati 
fication. Mr Jefferson adhered to the strict letter of the 
confederation, against the constructive opinion, and op 
posed the motion. It was debated with considerable 
warmth, on the 26th and 27th. No traces of the pro 
ceedings, however, appear in the journals of Congress. 
It being made palpable, in the course of the debates, 
that the proposition could not be sustained, it was de 
cided to make no entry at all. Massachusetts alone 
would have voted for it ; Rhode-Island, Pennsylvania 
and Virginia against it ; Delaware, Maryland and North 
Carolina would have been divided. 

In embodying his recollections of these transactions, 
in 1821, Mr Jefferson improved the occasion to record a 
severe but merited censure on the general character and 
conduct of our congressional bodies. 

Our body was little numerous, but very contentious. 
Day after day was wasted on the most unimportant 
questions. A member, one of those afflicted with the 
morbid rage of debate, of an ardent mind, prompt ima 
gination, and copious flow of words, who heard with 
impatience any logic which was not his own, sitting 
near me on some occasion of a trifling but wordy de 
bate, asked me how I could sit in silence, hearing so 
much false reasoning, which a word should refute 1 I 
observed to him, that to refute indeed was easy, but to 
silence impossible ; that in measures brought forward by 
myself, I took the laboring oar, as was incumbent on 


me ; but that in general, I was willing to listen ; that if 
every sound argument or objection was used by some 
one or other of the numerous debaters, it was enough ; 
if not, I thought it sufficient to suggest the omission, 
without going into a repetition of what had been al 
ready said by others : that this was a waste and abuse 
of the time and patience of the house, which could not 
be justified. And I believe, that if the members of de 
liberate bodies were to observe this course generally, 
they would do in a day, what takes them a week ; and 
it is really more questionable, than may at first be 
thought, whether Bonaparte s dumb legislature, which 
said nothing, and did much, may not be preferable to 
one which talks much, and does nothing. I served 
with general Washington in the legislature of Virginia, 
before the revolution, and, during it, with Dr Franklin 
in Congress. I never heard either of them speak ten 
minutes at a time, nor to any but the main point, which 
was to decide the question. They laid their shoulders 
to the great points, knowing that the little ones would 
follow of themselves. If the present Congress errs in 
too much talking, how can it be otherwise, in a body to 
which the people send one hundred and fifty lawyers, 
whose trade it is, to question every thing, yield nothing, 
and talk by the hour ? That one hundred and fifty 
lawyers should do business together, ought not to be ex 

Those who thought seven States competent to the 
ratification, being very uneasy under the loss of their 
motion, Mr Jefferson proposed, on the 3d of January, 
to meet them on the middle ground ; and accordingly 
moved a resolution, premising that there were but seven 
States present, who were unanimous for the ratification, 
but differed in opinion on the question of competency, 
that those however in the negative were unwilling that 
any powers which it might be supposed they possessed, 
should remain unexercised for the restoration of peace, 
provided it could be done saving their good faith, and 
without any opinion of Congress that seven States were 
competent ; and resolving, that the treaty be ratified so 

200 LIFE OF 

far as they had power ; that it should be transmitted to 
our ministers, with instructions to keep it uncommuni- 
cated ; that they should endeavor to obtain three months 
longer for exchange of ratifications ; that, so soon as nine 
States shall be present, a ratification by nine shall be 
sent them ; if this should get to them before the ultimate 
point of time for exchange, they were to use it, and not 
the other ; if not, they were to offer the act of the seven 
States in exchange, stating that the treaty had come to 
hand while Congress was not in session, that but seven 
States were as yet assembled, and these had unanimously 
concurred in the ratification. This resolution was de 
bated on the 3d and 4th of January ; and on the 5th, 
the question being carried, the house directed the pres 
ident to write to our ministers accordingly. 

On the 14th of January, delegates from Connecticut 
and South Carolina having arrived, the necessary com 
plement of States was in attendance ; and on report of 
Mr Jefferson in behalf of the committee, the definitive 
treaty of peace between the United States and Great 
Britain, was solemnly ratified and confirmed, without a 
dissenting voice. 

The act by which Mr Jefferson chiefly distinguished 
himself, in his second congressional course, was the es 
tablishment of a money unit, and a uniform system of 
currency, for the United States. The interesting fact is 
not generally known in this country, that Mr Jefferson 
was the father of the present admirable system of coin 
age and currency. In the volumes which have been 
written on this great man, no allusion to the circum 
stance has ever appeared ; and yet, it is one of the no 
blest commentaries on the versatility of his powers. 
The historical circumstances attending the preparation 
and final adoption of his scheme are of some curiosity, 
as showing the disparity of views which prevailed on the 

Early in January, 1782, Congress had turned their at- 


tention to the variety and discordancy of moneys current 
in the several States ; and had directed their financier, 
Robert Morris, to report to them a table of the different 
currencies, and of the rates at which foreign coins should 
be received at the treasury. That officer, or rather his 
assistant, Governeur Morris, answered them the same 
month, in an able and elaborate statement of the denom 
inations of money current in the several States, and of 
the comparative value of the foreign coins chiefly in cir 
culation among us. He went also into the consideration 
of the necessity of establishing a fixed standard of value 
with us, and of adopting a money unit. He proposed 
for that unit, such a fraction of pure silver as would be 
a common measure of the penny of every State, without 
leaving a fraction. This common divisor he found to be 
TiV^ f a dollar, or T ^V(T f a crown sterling. The 
value of a dollar, therefore, was to be expressed by 1440 
units, and of a crown by 1600 ; each unit containing a 
quarter of a grain of fine silver. The following year, 
1783, Congress again turned their attention to the sub 
ject, and the financier, by a letter of April 30, farther 
explained his idea, and urged the unit he had proposed ; 
but nothing more was done on it until the early part of 
the ensuing year, 84, when, Mr Jefferson having become 
a member, the subject was referred to a committee, of 
which he was made chairman. 

The general views of the financier, were sound, says 
he, * and the principle was ingenious, on which he pro 
posed to found his unit ; but it was too minute for ordi 
nary use, too laborious for computation, either by head 
or in figures. The price of a loaf of bread, ^ of a 
dollar, would be 72 units. A pound of butter, of a 
dollar, 288 units. A horse or bullock, of eighty dollars 
value, would require a notation of six figures, to wit, 
115,200, and the public debt, suppose of eighty millions, 
would require twelve figures, to wit, 115,200,000,000 
units. Such a system of money arithmetic would be 
entirely unmanagable for the common purposes of so- 

202 LIFE OP 

ciety. I proposed, therefore, instead of this, to adopt 
the dollar as our unit of account and payment, and that 
its divisions and subdivisions should be in the decimal 
ratio. I wrote some notes on the subject, which I sub 
mitted to the consideration of the financier. I received 
his answer and adherence to his general system, only 
agreeing to take for his unit one hundred of those he 
first proposed, so that a dollar should be 14^% and a 
crown 16 units. I replied to this, and printed my notes 
and reply on a flying sheet, which I put into the hands 
of the members of Congress for consideration, and the 
committee agreed to report on my principle. This was 
adopted the ensuing year, and is the system which now 

The money system recommended by Mr Jefferson, 
and adopted by Congress in 1785, has almost entirely 
superseded the various and perplexing currencies which 
formerly prevailed in the different States, and establish 
ed a uniformity of computation among them. For 
soundness and simplicity, easy computation, and facility 
of introduction among the people, it is probably unequal 
led by any system now in use in any other nation. A 
tolerable estimate of its advantages over the currencies 
of other States, may be formed on an examination of 
the views of the author, as drafted by himself at the 
time, and submitted to the consideration of the com 

As might be expected, the return to the national coun 
cils, of so distinguished a man as Mr Jeffers-on, drew 
upon him an unusual proportion of public business. 
The journals of the house place him continually in the 
foreground of the concentrated wisdom of the nation. 
He was on all the committees, to whom concerns of the 
highest moment were entrusted ; and was twice in one 
month elected chairman of Congress, during the absence, 
from indisposition, of the president. 


He was appointed chairman of a grand committee to 
revise the institution of the treasury department, and 
report such alterations as they should deem proper. 
The business of this committee was emphatically, to re 
duce order out of chaos. The finances of the country 
were in a most deplorable condition. No adequate sys 
tem had been devised for meeting the constant and in 
creasing requisitions upon the treasury. And no com 
pulsory power existed in Congress, over the States ; many 
of whom being dissatisfied with their quotas, refused to 
contribute altogether, and none appeared to have the 
means at command for satisfying the demands made 
upon them. The peace and harmony of the union were 
manifestly in danger. Mr Jefferson entered upon the 
arduous trust with great zeal and fidelity, and draughted 
an able report on the subject, in the form of a circular 
letter to the supreme executive of the several States; 
which report was unanimously adopted. He likewise 
reported from the same committee, the draught of an 
ordinance for erecting the department of finance into 
commission, under the title of The Board of Treasury, 
which was adopted. 

He was appointed chairman of a committee to pre 
pare and report to Congress, the arrears of interest on 
the national debt, with the interest and expenses of the 
current year ; and to adjust an equitable apportionment 
of the whole demand among the several States. He 
drew the report of the committee. It was an elaborate 
performance, embracing a full and comprehensive re 
view of the various debts of the union, the interest due 
thereon, with the expenses of the current year, arid ex 
hibiting by a table annexed, an apportionment of the 
necessary requisitions upon the several States, for de 
fraying the amount. The report was accepted, and 

He was appointed chairman of a committee to devise 
and report a plan of government for the western terri- 

204 LIFE OF 

tories. He drew the ordinance, on a principle analo 
gous to the State governments, and reported it to the 
house, where, after going through the ordinary course, 
it was adopted with few alterations. He improved the 
occasion to testify, once more, his abhorrence of slavery, 
by introducing into his plan the following provision : 
That after the year 1800 of the Christian era, there 
shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in any 
of the States, otherwise than in punishment of crimes, 
whereof the party shall have been duly convicted to have 
been personally guilty. But the clause was stricken out 
by Congress, as well as another, which provided that no 
person should be admitted a citizen, who held any hered 
itary title. 

He was appointed on a committee of retrenchment, to 
consider and report what reductions might be made in 
the civil list. On the report of this committee, such a 
reduction was ordered, by suppressing unnecessary offi 
ces and diminishing the salaries of others, as produced 
an annual saving to the United States of 24,000 dollars. 

He was made chairman of a committee- ..tQ..SttIe the 
mode of locating and disposing lands in the western ter 
ritory. He prepared the report of the committee, which 
was adopted. It established the mode of proceeding on 
this subject, which has hitherto been pursued with little 

By the confederation, exclusive power over the regu 
lation of commerce, even by treaty, was not given to 
Congress ; but the right was reserved to the State legis 
latures, of imposing such duties on foreigners, as their 
own people were subjected to, and of prohibiting the 
exportation and importation of any species of goods, 
within their respective ports. The inconveniences of 
fhis arrangement were speedily felt, to an alarming de 
gree. Great Britain had already adopted regulations 
destructive of our commerce with her West India islands ; 
and unless the United States, in their federative capacity, 


were invested with powers competent to the protection 
of their commerce, by countervailing regulations, it was 
obvious they could never command reciprocal advantages 
in trade ; without which their foreign commerce must 
decline, and eventually be annihilated. A committee 
was therefore appointed, of which Mr Jefferson was a 
member, to institute measures for transferring the prin 
cipal jurisdiction of commerce, from the States to the 
national tribunal. They reported resolutions recom 
mending the legislatures of the several States to invest 
the federal government, for the term of fifteen years, 
with the power to interdict from our ports the commerce 
of any nation, with whom the United States shall not 
have established treaties. The report was accepted, and 
the resolutions passed. 

AH these important transactions, with many others, in 
which Mr Jefferson had a leading agency, were accom 
plished during the winter and spring of 1784, the whole 
term of his second congressional service. 

During the same term, he submitted a proposition, 
which embraced a double object to invigorate the gov 
ernment and reduce its expense. The permanent ses 
sion of Congress, and the remissness of the members, 
had begun to be subjects of uneasiness through the coun 
try; and even some of the legislatures had recommended 
to them intermissions and periodical sessions. But the 
government was not yet organized into separate depart 
ments ; there was no distinct executive, nor had the con 
federation made provision for a visible head of affairs 
during vacations of Congress. Such a head was neces 
sary, however, to superintend the executive business, to 
receive and communicate with foreign ministers and na 
tions, and to assemble Congress on sudden and extraor 
dinary emergencies. Mr Jefferson, therefore, proposed 
the appointment of an executive board, to consist of one 
member from each State, who should remain in session 
during the recess of Congress, under the title of Com- 

206 LIFE OF 

mittee of the States. The powers of this plural execu 
tive, were to embrace all the executive functions of Con 
gress, which should not be specially reserved, but none 
of the legislative ; the concurrence of nine members 
should be required to determine all questions, except 
that of adjournment from day to day ; they should keep 
a journal of their proceedings to be laid before Congress, 
whom they should also be empowered to assemble, on 
any occurrence during the recess in which the peace or 
happiness of the United States might be involved. 

The proposition was adopted, and a committee of the 
States appointed. On the adjournment of Congress, in 
June following, they entered upon their duties, but in 
the course of two months, quarrelled among themselves, 
divided into two parties, abandoned their post, and left 
the government without any visible head until the next 
meeting of Congress. The scheme was found to be an 
impracticable one, though it was the best within the au 
thority of Congress at that time to adopt. And on the 
whole, it was a happy circumstance for our republic, 
that the theory proved as impracticable as it did ; for it 
developed, in a clear light, the palpable defect of the 
confederation, in not having provided for a separation of 
the legislative, executive, and judiciary functions ; and 
this defect, together with the want of adequate powers 
in the general government to collect their contributions 
and to regulate commerce, was the great cause which 
led to the formation and adoption of our present consti 

Mr Jefferson has left a brief reminiscence of his sen 
timents, and of an amusing interview with Dr Franklin, 
on learning the sudden rupture and dispersion of the 
new executive chiefs. 

4 We have since seen the same thing take place, in the 
directory of France ; and I believe it will forever take 
place in any executive consisting of a plurality. Our plan, 
I believe, best, combines wisdom and practicability, by 


providing a plurality of councillors, but a single arbiter 
for ultimate decision. I was in France when we heard 
of this schism and separation of our committee, and, 
speaking with Dr Franklin of this singular disposition 
of men to quarrel, and divide into parties, he gave his 
sentiments, as usual, by way of apologue. He mentioned 
the Eddystone light-house, in the British channel, as 
being built on a rock, in the mid-channel, totally inac 
cessible in winter, from the boisterous character of that 
sea, in that season ; that, therefore, for the two keepers 
employed to keep up the lights, all provisions for the 
winter were necessarily carried to them in autumn, as 
they could never be visited again till the return of the 
milder season ; that, on the first practicable day in the 
spring, a boat put oflf to them with fresh supplies. The 
boatmen met at the door one of the keepers, and accost 
ed him with a "How goes it, friend?" "Very well." 
" How is your companion ?" " I do not know." "Don t 
know?" "Is not he here?" " I can t tell." "Have 
not you seen him to-day ?" " No." " When did you 
see him ?" " Not since last fall." " You have killed 
him ?" " Not I, indeed." They were about to lay hold 
of him, as having certainly murdered his companion ; 
but he desired them to go up stairs and examine for them 
selves. They went up, and there found the other keep 
er. They had quarrelled, it seems, soon after being left 
there, had divided into two parties, assigned the cares 
below to one, and those above to the other, and had never 
spoken to, or seen, one another since. 

While in Congress, at Annapolis, Mr Jefferson receiv 
ed an urgent letter from General Washington, requesting 
his opinions on the institution of the Cincinnati, and on 
the conduct most proper for him. to pursue in relation to 
it. The origin of this institution was perfectly inno 
cent ; but its anti-republican organization and tendency 
soon excited a heavy solicitude in the breasts of the more 
sensitive guardians of liberty, which at length* broke 
forth in accents of loud and extensive disapprobation. 
The idea of this society was suggested by General Knox, 
and finally matured into a regular association of all the 



officers of the American army, to continue during their 
lives, and those of their eldest male posterity, or in fail 
ure thereof, any collateral branches who might be judged 
worthy admission, with power to incorporate, as honor 
ary members for life, individuals of the respective States, 
distinguished for their patriotism and abilities. The 
laws of the association farther provided for periodical 
meetings, general and particular, fixed contributions for 
such of the members as might be in distress, and a badge 
to be worn by them, and presented by a special envoy, 
to the French officers who had served in the United 
States, who were to be invited to consider themselves as 
belonging to the society ; at the head of which the com 
mander in chief was unanimously designated to take 
his place. 

General Washington saw with pain the uneasiness of 
the public mind under this institution, and appealed to 
Mr Jefferson for his advice on the most eligible measures 
to be pursued at the next meeting. The answer of Mr 
Jefferson, as it probably decided the future destinies of 
this famous institution, is \vorthy of being preserved. It 
is dated Annapolis, April 16, 1784. 

* I received your favor of April the 8th, by Colonel 
Harrison. The subject of it is interesting, and, so far 
as you have stood connected with it, has been matter of 
anxiety to me ; because, whatever may be the ultimate 
fate of the institution of the Cincinnati, as, in its course, 
it draws to it some degree of disapprobation, I have 
wished to see you standing on ground separated from it, 
that the character which will be handed to future ages, 
of the head of our revolution, may, in no instance, be 
compromitted in subordinate altercations. The subject 
has been at the point of my pen in every letter I have 
written to you, but has been still restrained by the reflec 
tion that you had among your friends more able coun 
sellors, and, in yourself, one abler than them all. Your 
letter has now rendered a duty what was before a desire, 
and I cannot better merit your confidence than by a full 


and free communication of facts and sentiments, as far 
as they have come within my observation. When the 
army was about to be disbanded, arid the officers to take 
final leave, perhaps never again to meet, it was natural 
for men who had accompanied each other through so 
many scenes of hardship, of difficulty and danger, who, 
in a variety of instances, must have been rendered mu 
tually dear by those aids and good offices, to which their 
situations had given occasion, it was natural, I say, for 
these to seize with fondness any proposition which pro 
mised to bring them together again, at certain and regu 
lar periods. And this, I take for granted, was the ori 
gin and object of this institution : and I have no sus 
picion that they foresaw, much less intended, those mis 
chiefs which exist perhaps in the forebodings of poli 
ticians only. I doubt, however, whether in its execu 
tion, it would be found to answer the wishes of those 
who framed it, and to foster those friendships it was 
intended to preserve. The members would be brought 
together at their annual assemblies no longer to encoun 
ter a common enemy, but to encounter one another in 
debate and sentiment. For something, I suppose, is to 
be done at these meetings, and, however unimportant, it 
will suffice to produce difference of opinion, contradic 
tion, and irritation. The way to make friends quarrel 
is to put them in disputation under the public eye. An 
experience of near twenty years has taught me, that few 
friendships stand this test, and that public assemblies 
where every one is free to act and speak, are the most 
powerful looseners of the bands of private friendship. I 
think, therefore, that this institution would fail in its 
principal object, the perpetuation of the personal friend 
ships contracted through the war. 

The objections of those who are opposed to the 
institution shall be briefly sketched. You will readily 
fill them up. They urge that it is against the confeder 
ation against the letter of some of our constitutions 
against the spirit of all of them; that the foundation 
on which all these are built, is the natural equality of 
man, the denial of every pre-eminence but that annexed 
to legal office, and, particularly, the denial of a pre 
eminence by birth ; that however, in their present dis- 

210 LIFE OF 

positions, citizens might decline accepting honorary 
instalments into the order ; but a time may come, when 
a change of dispositions would render these flattering, 
when a well directed distribution of them might draw 
into the order all the men of talents, of office, and 
wealth ; and in this case, would probably procure an 
ingraftment into the government ; that in this, they will 
be supported by their foreign members, and the wishes 
and influence of foreign courts; that experience has 
shown that the hereditary branches of modern govern 
ments are the patrons of privilege and prerogative, and 
not of the natural rights of the people, whose oppressors 
they generally are: that besides these evils, which are 
remote, others may take place more immediately ; that 
a distinction is kept up between the civil and military, 
which it is for the happiness of both to obliterate ; that 
when the members assemble they will be proposing to do 
something, and what that something may be, will depend 
on actual circumstances ; that being an organized body, 
under habits of subordination, the first obstruction to 
enterprise will be already surmounted ; that the modera 
tion and virtue of a single character have probably pre 
vented this revolution from being closed as most others 
have been, by a subversion of that liberty it was intended 
to establish ; that he is not immortal, and his successor, 
or some of his successors, may be led by false calcula 
tions into a less certain road to glory. 

* This, Sir, is as faithful an account of sentiments and 
facts as I am able to give you. You know the extent of 
the circle within which my observations are at present 
circumscribed, and can estimate how far, as forming a 
part of the general opinion, it may merit notice, or 
ought to influence your particular conduct. 

It now remains to pay obedience to that part of your 
letter which requests sentiments on the most eligible 
measures to be pursued by the society, at their next 
meeting. I must be far from pretending to be a judge 
of what would, in fact, be the most eligible measures for 
the society. I can only give you the opinions of those 
with whom I have conversed, and who, as I have before 
observed, are unfriendly to it. They lead to these con 
clusions. 1. If the society proceed according to its 


institution, it will be better to make no application to 
Congress on that subject, or any other, in their associated 
character. 2. If they should propose to modify it, so as 
to render it unobjectionable, I think it would not be 
effected without such a modification as would amount 
almost to annihilation : for such would it be to part with 
its inheritability, its organization, and its assemblies. 3. 
If they shall be disposed to discontinue the whole, it 
would remain with them to determine whether they 
would choose it to be done by their own act only, or by 
a reference of the matter to Congress, which would infal 
libly produce a recommendation of total discontinuance. 
4 You will be sensible, Sir, that these communications 
are without reserve. I supposed such to be your wish, 
and mean them but as materials, with such others as you 
may collect, for your better judgment to work on. I 
consider the whole matter as between ourselves alone, 
having determined to take no active part in this or any 
thing else, which may lead to altercation, or disturb that 
quiet and tranquillity of mind, to which I consign the 
remaining portion of my life. I have been thrown back 
by events, on a stage where I had never more thought 
to appear. It i^but for a time, however, and as a day- 
laborer, free to withdraw, or be withdrawn at will. 
While I remain, I shall pursue in silence the path of 
right, but in every situation, public or private, I shall be 
gratified by all occasions of rendering you service, and 
of convincing you there is no one, to whom your reputa 
tion and happiness are dearer than to, Sir, your most 
obedient and most humble servant. 

The sentiments of Mr Jefferson on the subject of the 
Cincinnati* were the sentiments of a majority of the 
members of Congress ; and they soon animated the . 
mass of the people. General Washington was oppressed 
with solicitude ; he weighed the considerations submitted 
to him, with intense deliberation ; and although con 
scious of the purity of the motives in which the institu 
tion originated, he became sensible that it might produce 
political evils, which the warmth of those motives had 
disguised. But whether so or not, the fact that a ma- 

212 LIFE OF 

jority of the people were opposed to it, was a sufficient 
motive with him for desiring its immediate suppression. 
The first annual meeting was to be held in May ensuing, 
at Philadelphia ; it was now at hand ; and he went to 
it with the determination to exert all his influence for its 
annihilation. He proposed the matter to his fellow- 
officers, arid urged it with all his powers. It met with 
an opposition, says Mr Jefferson, which was observed 
to cloud his face with an anxiety, that the most distress 
ful scenes of the war had scarcely ever produced. The 
question of dissolution was canvassed for several days, 
and, at length, the order was on the point of receiving 
its annihilation, by the vote of a great majority of its 
members. At this moment, their envoy arrived from 
France, charged with letters from the French officers, 
accepting cordially the proposed badges of fellowship, 
with solicitations from others to be received into the 
order, and the recognition of their magnanimous sove 
reign. The prospect was now changed. The question 
assumed a new form. After an offer ^nade by them 
selves, and accepted by their friends, in what words 
could they clothe a proposition to retract it, which would 
not cover themselves with the reproaches of levity and 
ingratitude ? which would not appear an insult to those 
whom they loved ? They found it necessary, therefore, 
to preserve so much of the institution, as would support 
the foreign branch ; but they obliterated every feature 
which was calculated to give offence to their own citi 
zens ; thus sacrificing, on either hand, to their brave 
allies, and to their country. 

The society was to retain its existence, its name, and its 
charitable funds ; these last, however, were to be deposit 
ed with their respective legislatures. The order was to 
be communicated to no new members. The general meet 
ings, instead of annual, were to be triennial only. The 
eagle and ribbon, indeed, were retained ; because they 


were willing they should be worn by their friends in 
France, where they would not be objects of offence ; but 
they were never worn here. They laid them up in 
their bureaus, with the medals of American Independ 
ence, with those of the trophies they had taken, and the 
battles they had won. 7 

On the 7th of May, Congress resolved that a minister 
plenipotentiary should be appointed, in addition to Dr 
Franklin and Mr Adams, already in Europe, for nego- | 
tiating treaties of commerce with foreign nations ; and 
Mr Jefferson was unanimously elected. 

The charge confided to this legation, comprehended 
all our foreign relations ; the adjustment of which, upon 
a firm and equitable basis, was evidently an undertaking 
of uncommon magnitude, difficulty and delicacy. It was 
the great object of Congress in the appointment of these 
ambassadors, to get our commerce established with every 
nation, on a footing as favorable as that of any other 
government ; and, for this purpose, they were directed 
to propose to each nation a distinct treaty of commerce. 
The acceptance too, of such treaties, would amount to 
an acknowledgment, by each, of our independence, and 
of our reception into the fraternity of nations ; which, 
says Mr Jefferson, although as possessing our station 
of right, and in fact, we would not condescend to ask, 
we were not unwilling to furnish opportunities for re 
ceiving their friendly salutations and welcome. With 
France, the United Netherlands and Sweden, the United 
States already had commercial treaties ; but commissions 
were given for those countries also, should any amend 
ments be thought necessary. The other powers, to which 
treaties were to be proposed, were England, Hamburg, 
Saxony, Prussia, Denmark, Russia, Austria, Venice, 
Rome, Naples, Tuscany, Sardinia, Genoa, Spain, Por 
tugal, the Porte, Algiers, Tripoli, Tunis, and Morocco. 




MR Jefferson accepted the honorable commission of 
ambassador, and bid a final adieu to Congress, on the 
11 th of May, 84, * Instead of returning to Monticello, 
the scene of his recent and distressing bereavement, he 
.vent directly to Philadelphia, took with him his eldest 
daughter, then in that city, and proceeded to Boston in 
quest of a passage. This was the only occasion on which 
Mr Jefferson ever visited New England ; and while pur 
suing his journey, he made a point of stopping at the 
principal towns on the seaboard, to inform himself of 
the state of commerce in each State. With the same 
view he extended his route into New Hampshire. He 
returned to Boston, and sailed thence, on the 5th of 
July, in the merchant ship Ceres, bound to Cowes, where 
he arrived, after a pleasant voyage, on the 26th. He 
was detained here a few days, by the indisposition of 
his daughter, when he embarked for Havre, and arrived 
at Paris on the 6th of August. He called immediately 
on Dr Franklin, at Passy, communicated to him their 
charge and instructions ; and they wrote to Mr Adams, 
then at the Hague, to join them at Paris. 

The instructions given by Congress to the first pleni 
potentiaries of independent America, were a novelty in 
the history of international transactions ; and much curi 
osity was manifested by the diplomatic corps of Europe, 
resident at the court of Versailles, to know the author 
of them. These instructions contemplated the introduc 
tion of numerous and fundamental reformations in the 


established relations of neutrals and belligerents ; which, 
had the propositions of our ministers been embraced by 
the principal powers of Europe, would have effected a 
series of the most substantial and desirable improvements 
in the international code of mankind. The principal 
reformations intended, were, a provision exempting from 
capture, by the public or private armed ships of either 
belligerent, when at war, all merchant vessels and their 
cargoes, employed merely in carrying on the commerce 
between nations ; a provision against the molestation of 
fishermen, husbandmen, citizens unarmed, and following 
their occupations in unfortified places ; for the humane 
treatment of prisoners of war ; for the abolition o/ con 
traband of war, which exposes merchant vessels to such 
ruinous detentions and abuses ; and for the recognition 
of the principle of free bottoms, free goods. 

Such were the distinguishing features of these unique 
instructions ; and the interesting question of their author 
ship has never been settled until since the publication of 
Mr Jefferson s Private Correspondence. In a letter of 
his, written but a short time before his death, to John Q. 
Adams, then President of the United States, the whole 
history of the transaction is concisely stated, in answer 
to a special and friendly enquiry on the subject. He 
ascribes to Dr Franklin the merit of having suggested 
the principal innovations meditated by these instructions. 

I am thankful for the very interesting message and 
documents of which you have been so kind as to send 
me a copy, and will state my recollections as to the par 
ticular passage of the message to which you ask my at 
tention. On the conclusion of peace, Congress, sensible 
of their right to assume independence, would not conde 
scend to ask its acknowledgment from other nations, yet 
were willing, by some of the ordinary international trans 
actions, to receive what would imply that acknowledge 
ment. They appointed commissioners, therefore, to 
propose treaties of commerce to the principal nations of 

216 LIFE OF 

Europe. I was then a member of Congress, was of the 
committee appointed to prepare instructions for the com 
missioners, was, as you suppose, the draughtsman of those 
actually agreed to, and was joined with your father and 
Doctor Franklin, to carry them into execution. But the 
stipulations making part of these instructions, which re 
spected privateering, blockades, contraband, and free 
dom of the fisheries, were not original conceptions of 
mine. They had before been suggested by Doctor 
Franklin, in some of his papers in possession of the 
public, and had, I think, been recommended in some 
letter of his to Congress. I happen only to have been 
the inserter of them in the first public act, which gave 
the formal sanction of a public authority. * 

Agreeably to their request, Mr Adams soon joined his 
colleagues of the legation, at Paris ; and their first em 
ployment was to prepare a general form of treaty, based 
upon the broad principles of their instructions, to be 
proposed to each nation without discrimination, but 
without urging it upon any. In the conference with the 
Count de Vergennes, the United States having already con 
cluded a treaty with France, it was mutually agreed to 
leave to legislative regulation, on both sides, such modifi 
cations of our commercial intercourse as would voluntarily 
flow from amicable dispositions. They next sounded the 
ministers of the several European nations, assembled at 
the court of Versailles, on the disposition of their re 
spective governments towards mutual commerce, and 
the expediency of encouraging it by the protection of a 
treaty. The final success of their propositions to the 
various powers, during a twelve months term of joint 
diplomatic attendance in Europe, is very pleasantly and 
comprehensively stated by Mr Jefferson himself. 

1 Old Frederick, of Prussia, met us cordially, and 
without hesitation ; and, appointing the Baron de Thule- 
meyer, his minister at the Hague, to negotiate with us, 
we communicated to him our Projet, which, with little 
alteration by the king, was soon concluded. Denmark 
and Tuscany entered also into negotiations with us. 


Other powers appearing indifferent, we did not think it 
proper to press them. They seemed, in fact, to know 
little about us, but as rebels, who had been successful in 
throwing off the yoke of the mother country. They 
were ignorant of our commerce, which had been always 
monopolized by England, and of the exchange of ar 
ticles it might offer advantageously to both parties. 
They were inclined, therefore, to stand aloof, until they 
could see better what relations might be usefully insti 
tuted with us. The negotiations, therefore, begun with 
Denmark and Tuscany, we protracted designedly, until 
our powers had expired ; and abstained from making 
new propositions to others having no colonies ; because 
our commerce being an exchange of raw for wrought 
materials, is a competent price for admission into the 
colonies of those possessing them ; but were we to give 
it without price to others, all would claim it without price, 
on the ground of gentis amicissimce. 

As might have been foreseen, such was the reserve and 
hauteur, with which the ambassadors of independent 
America were treated by the representatives of the 
governments of the ancient world. It is true, the United 
States had just emerged from a subordinate condition ; 
yet a little knowledge of the situation and resources of 
the people and institutions of America, would have ap 
prised them of the rank she was destined to hold in the 
scale of empire, and of the nature of those relations 
which it was their interest to have established with her. 
By assuming an air of coyness and indifference, they 
probably imagined they could inveigle our ministers into 
terms more advantageous to themselves, than they were 
in the habit of instituting with older countries and more 
experienced agents. But they were met by the untutored 
negotiators of republican America, with an equal indif 
ference, as just and honorable as theirs was fallacious, 
springing as it did, from a sense of the real value of our 
commerce, and a determination not to exchange it, in 
any case, without an adequate equivalent. As soon as 

218 LIFE OF 

they became sensible, therefore, that they could do no 
thing with the greater powers, who alone might offer a 
competent exchange for our commerce, they prudently 
resolved not to hamper our country with engagements 
to those of less significance ; and accordingly suffered 
their commission to expire without closing any other 
negotiation than that with the king of Prussia. 

Thus through the short-sighted cupidity of European 
governments, was lost to the world a precious opportu 
nity of commencing a reform in its international code, 
by the introduction of wise and beneficent principles. 
* Had these governments, says Mr Jefferson, been then 
apprised of the station we should so soon occupy among 
nations, all I believe, would have met us promptly and 
with frankness. These principles would then have been 
established with all, and from being the conventional law 
with us alone, would have slid into their engagements 
with one another, and become general. They have not 
yet found their way into written history ; but their adop 
tion by our southern brethren, will bring them into ob 
servance, and make them what they should be, a part of 
the law of the world, and of the reformation of princi 
ples for which they will be indebted to us. 

On the 10th of March, 1785, Mr Jefferson received the 
unanimous appointment of minister plenipotentiary at 
the court of France, as successor to Dr Franklin, who 
had obtained leave to return to America. He was re- 
elected to the same station in October, 87, on the expi 
ration of his first term, and continued to represent the 
United States at that court until October, 1789, when he 
was permitted to return to his native country. 

Mr Adams was about the same time appointed minis 
ter plenipotentiary to England, and left Paris for Lon 
don, in June, 85. 

Mr Jefferson accepted the appointment, with a native 
diffidence, heightened by a sense of the extraordinary 


merits of his predecessor, and of the exalted estimation 
in which they had established him with the French 

His reception at the court of Versailles, as resident 
ambassador of America, and his introduction into the 
brilliant circles of Paris, were of the most flattering 
character. At first, he was universally pointed to, and 
appreciated only, as the successor of the admired, the 
beloved, the venerated Franklin ; but in a short time, his 
own estimable qualities became known, and established 
him in the affections of the nation, with a firmness and 
fervor which rivalled the reputation of his predecessor. 
He was every where, and on all occasions, greeted with 
a welcome, which evinced their cordial attachment to 
the freemen and freedom of the United States. With a 
mind constituted, as Mr Jefferson s was, it is not wonder 
ful that the attentions which were showered upon him, 
the science of their literary men, the warmth of their 
general philanthropy, and the devotedness of their select 
friendships, made an impression upon him, which he 
carried in all its freshness to his grave. 

On the retirement of Dr Franklin from the diplomatic 
field, the duties of the joint commission for forming com 
mercial treaties in Europe, devolved on Mr Jefferson and 
Mr Adams ; and their separate stations added to their 
insuperable repugnance to pressing the subject upon the 
European governments, had almost extinguished the idea 
of farther operations. But in February, 1786, Mr Jef 
ferson received, by express, a letter from his colleague in 
London, urging his immediate attendance at that court, 
stating as a reason, that he thought he discovered there 
some symptoms of a more favorable disposition towards 
the United States. Col. Smith, his secretary of legation, 
was the bearer of Mr Adams letters. Accordingly, Mr 
Jefferson left Paris on the 1st of March, for the purpose 
of co-operating with Mr Adams in a second attempt to 
negotiate a treaty of commerce with Great Britain 

220 LIFE OF 

On his arrival in London, the two ministers met, and 
agreed on a very summary and liberal form of treaty to 
be offered, proposing in direct terms a mutual exchange 
of citizenship, of ships, and of productions generally. 

The reader will be amused with Mr Jefferson s ac 
count of the magnanimous reception of their proposition, 
and of the final result of his trip to the dignified court 
of St James. 

On my presentation, as usual, to the king and queen, 
at their levees, it was impossible for any thing to be more 
ungracious, than their notice of Mr Adams and myself. 
I saw at once, that the ulcerations of mind in that quar 
ter, left nothing to be expected on the subject of my at 
tendance ; and, on the first conference with the Marquis 
of Casrmarthen, the minister for foreign affairs, the dis 
tance and disinclination which he betrayed in his con 
versation, the vagueness and evasions of his answers to 
us, confirmed me in the belief of their aversion to have 
any thing to do with us. We delivered him, however, 
our projet, Mr Adams not despairing as much as I did, of 
its effect. We afterwards, by one or more notes, re 
quested his appointment of an interview and conference, 
which, without directly declining, he evaded, by pretence 
of other pressing occupations for the moment. After 
staying there seven weeks, till within a few days of the 
expiration of our commission, I informed the minister, 
by note, that my duties at Paris required my return to 
that place, and that I should, with pleasure, be the bear 
er of any commands to his ambassador there. He 
answered, that he had none, and wishing me a pleasant 
journey, I left London the 26th, and arrived at Paris the 
30th of April. 

Mr Jefferson s duties, while minister plenipotentiary 
at Paris, were principally confined to the subject of our 
commercial relations with that country ; in which he ef 
fected many important modifications, highly advanta 
geous to the United States. He succeeded in procuring 
the receipt of our whale oils, salted fish, and salted meats, 
on favorable terms ; the admission of our rice on equal 


terms with that of Piedmont, Egypt, and the Levant ; a 
suppression of the duties on our wheat, flour, furs, &c ; 
the suppression of the monopoly for making arid selling 
spermaceti candles ; the naturalization of our ships ; a 
mitigation of the monopoly of our tobacco trade by the 
farmers-general of France ; a reduction of the duties on 
our tar, pitch, and turpentine ; and the free admission of 
our productions generally, into their West India islands. 
In exchange, the United States received, hy direct trade, 
the wines, brandies, oils, and productions and manufac 
tures generally, of France. These objects were not ac 
complished, however, without a series of difficult and la 
borious negotiations, aided by the mutual good temper 
and dispositions of both parties, and by the mediation of 
a powerful auxiliary and friend at that court, whose ar 
duous and disinterested services in the cause of America 
can never be forgotten. 

On these occasions, says he, I was powerfully aided 
by all the influence and the energies of the Marquis de 
la Fayette, who proved himself equally zealous for the 
friendship and welfare of both nations ; and, in justice, 
I must also say, that I found the government entirely dis 
posed to befriend us on all occasions, and to yield us 
every indulgence, not absolutely injurious to themselves. 
The Count de Vergennes had the reputation with the di 
plomatic corps, of being wary and slippery in his diplo 
matic intercourse ; and so he might be, with those, whom 
he knew to be slippery, and double faced themselves. 
As he saw that I had no indirect views, practised no sub- 
tilties, meddled in no intrigues, pursued no concealed ob 
ject, I found him as frank, as honorable, as easy of ac 
cess to reason, as any man with whom 1 had ever done 
business ; and I must say the same for his successor, 
Montrnorin, one of the most honest and worthy of hu 
man beings. 

Our commerce in the Mediterranean having, at this 
time, been suddenly placed under alarm, by the capture 
of two of our vessels and crews by the Barbary cruisers, 

222 LIFE OF 

Mr Jefferson projected a coalition of the principal Euro 
pean powers subject to their habitual depredations, to 
compel the piratical States to perpetual peace, and to 
guaranty that peace to each other. He was early and 
resolutely determined, so far as his opinions could have 
weight, that the United States should never acquiesce in 
the European humiliation, as he termed it, of purchas 
ing their peace of those lawless pirates. l Millions for 
defence, but not a cent for tribute, was his celebrated 
motto. The following is a statement of his reasons for 
this policy, addressed to Mr Adams, soon after returning 
to Paris, with a view to obtain his concurrence in the 

1. Justice is in favor of this opinion. 2. Honor fa 
vors it. 3. It will procure us respect in Europe ; and 
respect is a safeguard to interest. 4. It will arm the 
federal head, with the safest of all the instruments of 
coercion over its delinquent members, and prevent it 
from using what would be less safe. I think, that so 
far you go with me. But in the next steps we shall dif 
fer. 5. I think it least expensive. 6. Equally effec 
tual. I ask a fleet of one hundred and fifty guns, the 
one half of which shall be in constant cruise. This 
fleet, built, manned, and victualled for six months, will 
cost four hundred and fifty thousand pounds sterling. 
Its annual expense will be three hundred pounds sterling 
a gun, including every thing : this will be forty-five 
thousand pounds sterling a year. I take British ex 
perience for the basis of my calculation : though we 
know, from our own experience, that we can do in this 
way for pounds lawful, what costs them pounds sterling. 
Were we to charge all this to the Algerine war, it would 
amount to little more than we must pay if we buy peace. 
But as it is proper and necessary, that we should estab 
lish a small marine force, (even were we to buy a peace 
from the Algerines) and as that force, laid up in our 
dock-yard, would cost half as much annually as if kept 
in order for service, we have a right to say, that only 
twenty-two thousand and five hundred pounds sterling, 
per annum, should be charged to the Algerine war. 7. 


It will be as effectual. To all the mismanagements of 
Spain and Portugal, urged to show that war against 
those people is ineffectual, I urge a single fact to prove 
the contrary, where there is any management. About 
forty years ago, the Algerines having broke their treaty 
with France, this court sent Monsieur de Massiac, with 
one large and two small frigates : he blockaded the 
harbor of Algiers three months, and they subscribed to 
the terms he proposed. If it be admitted, however, that 
war, on the fairest prospects, is still exposed to uncer 
tainties, I weigh against this the greater uncertainty of 
the duration of a peace bought with money, from such 
a people, from a Dey eighty years old, and by a nation 
who, on the hypothesis of buying peace, is to have no 
power on the sea to enforce an observance of it. 

So far I have gone on the supposition, that the 
whole weight of this war would rest on us. But 1. 
Naples will join us. The character of their naval mini 
ster (Acton,) his known sentiments with respect to the 
peace Spain is officially trying to make for them, and 
his dispositions against the Algerines, give the best 
grounds tq believe it. 2. Every principle of reason as 
sures us, that Portugal will join us. I state this as 
taking for granted, what all seem to believe, that they 
will not be at peace with Algiers. I suppose, then, that 
a convention might be formed between Portugal, Naples, 
and the United States, by which the burden of the war 
might be shared with them, according to their respective 
wealth ; and the term of it should be, when Algiers 
should subscribe to a peace with all three on equal 
terms. This might be left open for other nations to 
accede to ; and many, if not most of the powers of 
Europe (except France, England, Holland, and Spain, 
if her peace be made) would sooner or later enter into 
the confederacy, for the sake of having their peace with 
the piratical States guarantied by the w r hole. I suppose, 
that, in this case, our proportion of force would not be 
the half of what I first calculated on. 

Presuming on Mr Adams concurrence, and without 
waiting his answer, Mr Jefferson immediately draughted 
and proposed to the diplomatic corps at Paris, for con- 

224 LIFE OF 

saltation with their respective governments, articles of 
special confederation and alliance against the Barbary 
powers; the substance of which was that the parties 
should become mutually bound to compel these powers 
to perpetuate peace, without price, and to guaranty 
that peace to each other, the burden of the war to be 
equitably apportioned among them. 

The proposition was received with applause by Por 
tugal, Naples, the two Sicilies, Venice, Malta, Den 
mark, and Sweden. Spain had just concluded a treaty 
with Algiers, at the expense of three millions of dollars, 
and was indisposed to relinquish the benefit of her en 
gagement, until a first infraction by the other party, 
when she was ready to join. Mr Jefferson had pre 
viously sounded the dispositions of the Count de Vergen- 
nes ; and although France was at peace, by a mercenary 
tenure, with the Barbary States, and fears were enter 
tained that she would secretly give them her aid, he did 
not think it proper, in his conference with that minister, 
to insinuate a doubt of the fair conduct of his govern 
ment ; but on stating to him the proposition, he men 
tioned that apprehensions were felt that England would 
interfere in behalf of the piratical powers. She dares 
not do it, was his reply. Mr Jefferson pressed the 
point no farther. The other ministers were satisfied 
with this indication of the sentiments of France, and 
nothing was now wanting to bring the measure into di 
rect consideration, but the assent of the United States, 
and their authority to make the formal stipulation. 

Mr Jefferson communicated to Congress the favorable 
prospect of protecting their commerce from the Bar 
bary depredations, and for such a term of time, as by 
an exclusion of them from the sea, would change their 
characters from a predatory to an agricultural people ; 
towards which, however, should the measure be ap 
proved, it was expected they would contribute a frigate, 
and its expenses, for constant cruise. But the United 


States were in no condition lo unite in such an under 
taking. The powers of Congress over the people for 
obtaining contributions, being merely recommendatory, 
and openly disregarded by the States, they declined en 
tering into an engagement, which they were conscious 
they could not fulfil with punctuality. The association 
consequently fell through ; but the principle has ever 
since governed in the American councils. 

The remaining public objects of importance, which 
engaged his attention, were : 1st, The settlement of the 
financial concerns with our bankers in France and Hol 
land, which were in a most critical and embarrassing 
state. Owing to the partial suspension in the action of 
our government, while passing from the confederation 
to the constitutional form, the credit of the nation stood, 
at one time, on the verge of bankruptcy. Seeing there 
was not a moment to lose, Mr Jefferson went directly 
to Holland, joined Mr Adams at the Hague, where, 
without instructions and at their own risk, they executed 
bonds for a million of florins and pledged the credit of 
the United States in security for three years to come ; 
by which time they thought the new government would 
get fairly under way. 2d, The conclusion of a consular 
convention with France, based upon republican princi 
ples. 3d, The restoration of certain prizes taken from 
the British during the war, recaptured by Denmark, and 
delivered up to the British. He instituted measures to 
recover indemnification from Denmark; but the nego 
tiation, by unavoidable circumstances, was spun out be 
yond the term of his ministry. 4th, The redemption of 
American citizens taken captive by the Algerines ; and 
the formation of treaties with the Barbary States. The 
inability of the United States to supply him with the ne 
cessary funds, prevented the redemption of the Algerine 
captives, until after his return from France ; and the 
only treaty which he succeeded in concluding with the 



Barbary States, was that with the government of Mo 
rocco. . 

It will be interesting to the American reader, to know 
how the general appearance of things in Europe struck 
the republican rnind of Mr Jefferson. His private let 
ters, while in Paris, addressed to his friends in America, 
comprise the most nervous, and in some respects, the 
most valuable portions of his voluminous correspondence. 
His views of the state of society and manners in Eu 
rope, his comparison of its governments, laws, and in 
stitutions, with those of republican America, and his 
unremitting exhortations to his countrymen to preserve 
themselves and the blessings they enjoy free from con 
tamination with the people and principles of the old 
world, are among the most valuable and interesting lega 
cies which he has bequeathed to his country. 

Soon after the restoration of peace, the incompetency 
of the confederation to sustain the republican structure, 
was so alarmingly felt, that even those who had been 
most ardent in its establishment apostatized in great 
numbers, to the principles of monarchical government, 
as the only refuge of political safety. 

The causes of this deflection in political opinion are 
inherent in the constitution of man ; but powerful ex 
ternal reasons co-operated, at this period, to stimulate 
and force it on. The people had come out of the war 
of the revolution, oppressed with the debts of the union, 
with the debts of the individual States, and with their 
own private debts ; and they were utterly unable to dis 
charge any, from the best of all causes, the want of 
pecuniary means. The inability of Congress, from the 
want of coercive powers, to cancel the public obliga 
tions, destroyed the public credit ; and the application 
of judgment and execution, in the case of private debts, 
served only to increase the general distress. The in 
terruption of their commerce with Great Britain, and 
the deficiency, as yet, of other markets for their produc- 


tions, operated with peculiar severity upon the eastern 
States ; and the neglect of a suitable relaxation of the 
judiciary arm in those governments, brought on disas 
trous consequences. Under the pressure of this general 
distress, the popular discontent broke out into acts of 
violence, and flagrant insubordination. Tumultuary 
meetings were held in New-Hampshire and Connecti 
cut ; and in Massachusetts a formidable insurrection 
arose, which menaced the very foundations of the gov 

These disturbances and commotions occasioned a 
general alarm throughout the union. They excited a 
sensible distrust of the principles of our government 
among its most sanguine votaries ; while, with its ene 
mies, the intelligence of such events was greeted 
with exultation, as affording a happy augury of the 
downfall of the republic. Now it was that those theo 
retic ideas of public virtue, on which the beautiful 
edifice of liberty was erected, began to be scouted as 
chimerical. The people were distrusted, and terror was 
considered the only competent motive of restraint, and 
engine of subordination. 

Mr Jefferson was distant from his country, at this 
disheartening juncture ; but his eye watched over her, 
and the voice of his counsels was heard and felt. His 
confidence in the soundness of the republican theory, 
underwent no change from those occasional eccentrici 
ties in practice which are inseparable from all human 
institutions, and which were chargeable, in the present 
case, to the pressure of the times, and the weakness of 
the confederation, rather than to any inherent principle 
of disorganization. His reliance upon the good sense 
of the people to rectify abuses in a proper manner, was 
so strong, that he deemed an occasional rebellion a de 
sirable event, inasmuch as it afforded the best evidence 
that this sense was active and vigorous ; to enlighten it, 
then, was the only thing necessary to ensure a favorable 

228 LIFE OF 

result. Indeed, his conviction of the capacity of man 
kind to govern themselves, was confirmed by the intel 
ligence of these irregular proofs of their dissatisfaction 
under the present circumstances ; and he took care to 
impress this opinion upon his numerous correspondents 
in America, on every occasion, and in the most emphatic 
te.rms. An acquaintance with his private correspondence 
at this period, would afford satisfaction to the lovers of 
human nature and of human rights. 

To CoL E. CARRINGTON. I am persuaded myself, 
that the good sense of the people will always be found 
to be the best army. They may be led astray for a 
moment, but will soon correct themselves. The people 
are the only censors of their governors ; and even their 
errors will tend to keep these to the true principles of 
their institutions. To punish such errors too severely, 
would be to suppress the only safeguard of the public 
liberty. The way to prevent these irregular interposi 
tions of the people, is to give them full information of 
their affairs, through the channel of the public papers, 
and to contrive that those papers should penetrate the 
whole mass of the people. The basis of our govern 
ment being the opinion of the people, the very first 
object should be to keep that right ; and were it left to 
me to decide, whether we should have a government 
without newspapers, or newspapers without a govern 
ment, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the lat 
ter. But I would insist, that every man should receive 
those papers, and be capable of reading them. I am 
convinced that those societies, (as the Indians) which 
live without government, enjoy in their general mass an 
infinitely greater degree of happiness, than those who 
live under the European governments. Among the for 
mer, public opinion is in the place of law, and restrains 
morals as powerfully as laws ever did any where. 
Among the latter, under pretence of governing, they 
have divided their nation into two classes, wolves and 
sheep. I do not exaggerate. This is the true picture 
of Europe. Cherish, therefore, the spirit of our peo 
ple, and keep alive their attention. Do not be too se- 


vere upon their eri ors, but reclaim them by enlightening 
them. If once they become inattentive to the pub 
lic affairs, you, and I, and Congress, and assemblies, 
judges and governors, shall all become wolves. It 
seems to be the. law of our general nature, in spite of 
individual exceptions: and experience declares, that man 
is the only animal which devours his own kind ; for I 
can apply no milder term to the governments of Europe, 
and to the general prey of the rich on the poor. 

To JAMES MADISON. I am impatient to learn your 
sentiments on the late troubles in the eastern States. So 
far as I have yet seen, they do not appear to threaten 
serious consequences. Those States have suffered by 
the stoppage of the channels of their commerce, which 
have not yet found other issues. This must render mo 
ney scarce, and make the people uneasy. This uneasi 
ness has produced acts absolutely unjustifiable : but I 
hope they will provoke no severities from their govern 
ments. A consciousness of those in power, that their 
administration of the public affairs has been honest, may, 
perhaps, produce too great a degree of indignation : and 
those characters wherein fear predominates over hope, 
may apprehend too much from these instances of irreg 
ularity. They may conclude too hastily, that nature has 
formed man insusceptible of any other government than 
that of force, a conclusion not founded in truth nor ex 
perience. Societies exist under three forms, sufficiently 
distinguishable. 1. Without government, as among our 
Indians. 2 Under governnlfents, wherein the will of ev 
ery one has a just influence ; as is the case in England, 
in a slight degree, and in our States, in a great one. 3. 
Under governments of force ; as is the case in all other 
monarchies, and in most of the other republics. To 
have an idea of the curse of existence under these last, 
they must be seen. It is a government of wolves over 
sheep. It is a problem, not clear in my mind, that the 
first condition is not the best. But I believe it to be in 
consistent with any great degree of population. The 
second state has a great deal of good in it. The mass 
of mankind under that, enjoys a precious degree of lib 
erty and happiness. It has its evils too ; the principal 
of which is the turbulence to which it is subject. But 

230 LIFE OF 

weigh this against the oppressions of monarchy, and it 
becomes nothing. Malo periculosam libertatem quam 
quietam servitutem. Even this evil is productive of good. 
It prevents the degeneracy of government, and nourish 
es a general attention to the public affairs. I hold it, 
that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and 
as necessary in the political world, as storms in the phy 
sical. Unsuccessful rebellions, indeed, generally estab 
lish the encroachments on the rights of the people, which 
have produced them. An observation of this truth should 
render honest republican governors so mild in their pun 
ishment of rebellions, as not to discourage them too 
much. It is a medicine necessary for the sound health 
of government. 

To DAVID HARTLEY, of England. The most inter 
esting intelligence from America, is that respecting the 
late insurrection in Massachusetts. The cause of this 
has not been developed to me to my perfect satisfaction. 
The most probable is, that those individuals were of the 
imprudent number of those who have involved them 
selves in debt beyond their abilities to pay, and that a 
vigorous effort .in that government to compel the pay 
ment of private debts, and raise money for public ones, 
produced the resistance. I believe you may be assured, 
that an idea or desire of returning to any thing like their 
ancient government, never entered into their heads. I 
am not discouraged by this. For thus I calculate. An 
insurrection in one of thirteen States, in the course of 
eleven years that they have subsisted, amounts to one 
in any particular State, in one hundred and forty-three 
years, say a century and a half. This would not be 
near as many as have happened in every other govern 
ment that has ever existed. So that we shall have the 
difference between a light and a heavy government as 
clear gain. I have no fear, but tha t the result of our 
experiment will be, that men may be trusted to govern 
themselves without a master. 

To Col. SMITH. Wonderful is the effect of impu 
dent and persevering lying. The British ministry have 
so long hired their gazetteers to repeat, and model into 
every form, lies about our being in anarchy, that the 


world has at length believed them, the English nation 
has believed them, the ministers themselves have come 
to believe them, and what is more wonderful, we have 
believed them ourselves. Yet where does this anarchy 
exist ? Where did it ever exist, except in the single in 
stance of Massachusetts ? And can history produce 
an instance of rebellion so honorably conducted 1 I say 
nothing of its motives. They were founded in ignor 
ance, not wickedness. God forbid, we should ever be 
twenty years without such a rebellion. The people 
cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part 
which is wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the 
importance of the facts they misconceive. If they re- - 
main quiet under such misconceptions, it is a fethargy, 
the forerunner of death to the public liberty. We have 
had thirteen States independent for eleven years. There 
has been one rebellion. That comes to one rebellion in 
a century and a half for each State. What country be 
fore ever existed a century and a half without a rebel 
lion 1 And what country can preserve its liberties, if 
its rulers are not warned from time to time, that the 
people preserve the spirit of resistance ? Let them take 
arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, par 
don, and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in 
a century or two 1 The tree of liberty must be refresh 
ed from time to time with the blood of patriots and ty 
rants. It is its natural manure. 

Such is a specimen of the philosophy which Mr Jef 
ferson poured into the breasts of the public characters 
of America, at this important juncture. His opinions 
were received with respect by all those with whom he 
had acted on the theatre of the revolution ; and his ear 
nest and unremitting counsels had a powerful influence 
in checking the anti-republican tendencies which had 
already risen up. In a short time, the deluge of evils 
which overflowed the country, was traced to its original 
source ; and no sooner was the happy discovery made, 
than the virtue and good sense of the people, in verifi 
cation of his repeated auguries, nobly interposed, and 
instead of seeking relief in rebellion and civil war, as- 

232 LIFE OP 

sembled their wise men together to apply a rational and 
peaceable remedy. 

The first grand movement towards re-organizing the 
government of the United States, upon the basis of the 
present constitution, was made in the general assembly 
of Virginia, on motion of Mr IMadison. The proposi 
tion merely contemplated an amendment of the con 
federation, which should confer on Congress the abso 
lute and exclusive power over the regulation of com 
merce ; and resulted in the convocation of a conven 
tion for that purpose, to meet at Annapolis, in Sep- 
Atember,J786. The commercial convention failed in 

point of representation ; but it laid the foundation for 
the call of a grand national convention, with powers to 
revise the entire system of government, to meet at 
Philadelphia the ensuing year. 

The opinions of Mr Jefferson had an undoubted in 
fluence in these important proceedings in America. In 
all his dispatches to the government, and in his private 
letters to the leading political men, he had reiterated 
the necessity of fundamental reformations in the federal 
compact. The defect which he most deplored was the 
absence of a uniform power to regulate our commercial 
intercourse with foreign nations. This disability was 
the incessant theme of his complaints. It was the pri 
mary source he declared, of those irregularities and em 
barrassments which continually obstructed his negotia 
tions with the European nations. Those powers who 
were disposed to treat, would never do it, so long as the 
government had no authority to protect them, by treaty, 
from the navigation acts of the particular States ; and 
those who were indisposed to treat, would forever remain 
so for the same reason ; whilst all would exercise the 
right to retaliate on the union, the restrictions imposed 
on their commerce by the laws of any one individual 
State. He maintained a constant correspondence on 
these points with Washington, Wythe, Monroe, Lang- 


don, Gerry, and particularly his friend Madison. The 
intelligence of the first movements in America, towards 
a reformation of the national compact, filled him with 
the liveliest gratification, as is evinced by his letters of 
that date. A single specimen will suffice to show the 
general tenor of his correspondence on this subject. 

To JAMES MADISON. I have heard, with great 
pleasure, that our assembly have come to the resolution, 
of giving the regulation of their commerce to the federal 
head. I will venture to assert, that there is not one of 
its opposers, who, placed on this ground, would not see 
the wisdom of the measure. The politics of Europe 
render it indispensably necessary, that, with respect to 
every thing external, we be one nation only, firmly 
hooped together. Interior government is what each 
State should keep to itself. If it were seen in Europe, 
that all our States could be brought to concur in what 
the Virginia assembly has done, it would produce a total 
revolution in their opinion of us, and they would respect 
us. And it should ever be held in mind, that insult and 
war are the consequences of a want of respectability in 
the national character. As long as the States exercise, 
separately, those acts of power which respect foreign 
nations, so long will there continue to be irregularities 
committed by some one or other of them, which will 
constantly keep us on an ill footing with foreign na 

The national convention, appointed to digest a new 
constitution of government, assembled at Philadelphia 
on the 25th of May, 1787. Delegates attended from 
all the States, except Rhode-Island, who refused to 
appoint any. George Washington was unanimously 
chosen to preside over their deliberations. They sat 
with closed doors, and passed an injunction of entire 
secrecy on their proceedings. This was an erroneous { 
beginning, in the opinion of Mr Jefferson, who viewed 
every encroachment upon the freedom of speech with 
extreme jealousy. I am sorry,* he writes to Mr Adams, 
* they began their deliberations by so abominable a pre- 

234 LIFE OF 

cedent, as that of tying 1 up the tongues of their members. 
Nothing can justify this example, but the innocence of 
their intentions, and ignorance of the value of public 
discussions. I have no doubt that all their other mea 
sures will be good and wise. It is really an assembly of 

During the deliberations and discussions of this assem 
bly, those fearful anti-republican heresies which had 
sprung up during the short interval of peace, developed 
themselves in a more tangible and decided form. Vari 
ous propositions were submitted to the convention, some 
of which were dangerous approximations to monarchy. 
One of these, proposed by Alexander Hamilton, was in 
fact a compromise between the two principles of royal- 
ism and republicanism. According to this plan, the ex 
ecutive, and one branch of the legislature were to continue 
in office during good behavior ; and the governors of 
the States were to be named by these two permanent 
organs. The proposition, however, was rejected. 

Although a stranger to these transactions, Mr Jeffer 
son could not contemplate the idea of such a conven 
tion without great anxiety. His counsels were eagerly 
solicited by Madison, Wythe and others, from time to 
time, during the progress of the convention, and he com 
municated to them his opinions, with modesty and frank 
ness. It is very evident from the tenor of some of his 
answers, that he had received hints of the monarchical 
dispositions which characterized a portion of the as 
sembly. His fears were so strong from this direc 
tion, that he leaned heavily the other way, in stating his 
opinions of the necessary reformations. 

To Mr MADISON. The idea of separating the ex 
ecutive business of the confederacy from Congress, as 
the judiciary is already, in some degree, is just and ne 
cessary. I had frequently pressed on the members in 
dividually, while in Congress, the doing this by a reso 
lution of Congress for appointing an executive com- 


mittee, to act during the sessions of Congress, as the 
committee of the States was to act during their vaca 
tions. But the referring to this committee all executive 
business, as it should present itself, would require a 
more persevering self-denial than I suppose Congress to 
possess. It would he much better to make that separa 
tion by a federal act. The negative proposed to be 
given them on all the acts of the several legislatures, is 
now, for the first time, suggested to my mind. Prima 
facie, I do not like it. It fails in an essential charac 
ter; that the hole and the patch should be commen 
surate. But this proposes to mend a small hole, by 
covering the whole garment. Not more than one out of 
one hundred State acts, concern the confederacy. This 
proposition, then, in order to give them one degree of 
power, which they ought to have, gives them ninety-nine 
more, which they ought not to have, upon a presump 
tion that they will not exercise the ninety-nine. 

To E. CARRINGTON. * I confess, I do not go as far 
in the reforms thought necessary, as some of my cor 
respondents in America; but if the convention should 
adopt such propositions, I shall suppose them necessary. 
My general plan would be, to make the States one, as 
to every thing connected with foreign nations, and seve 
ral as to every thing purely domestic. But with all the 
imperfections of our present government, it is, without 
comparison, the best existing, or that ever did exist. 
Its greatest defect is the imperfect manner in which 
matters of commerce have been provided for. 

To Mr HAWKINS. I look up with you to the federal 
convention, for an amendment of our federal affairs. 
Yet I do not view them in so disadvantageous a light at 
present, as some do. And above all things, I am aston 
ished at some people s considering a kingly government 
as a refuge. Advise such to read the fable of the frogs, 
who solicited Jupiter for a king. If that does not put 
them to rights, send them to Europe, to see something 
of the trappings of monarchy, and I will undertake, 
that every man shall go back thoroughly cured. If all 
the evils which can arise among us, from the republican 

236 LIFE OF 

form of government, from this day to the day of judg 
ment, could be put into a scale against what this coun 
try suffers from its monarchical form, in a week, or 
England in a month f the latter would preponderate. 
Consider the contents of the Red book in England, or 
the Almanac Royale of France, and say what a people 
gain by monarchy. No race of kings has ever pre 
sented above one man of common sense, in twenty gene 
rations. The best they can do is, to leave things to 
their ministers ; arid what are their ministers, but a 
committee badly chosen 1 If the king, ever meddles, it 
is to do harm. 

To J. JONES. I am anxious to hear what our fede 
ral convention recommends, and what the States will 
do in consequence of their recommendation. * 
With all the defects of our constitution, whether general 
or particular, the comparison of our governments with 
those of Europe, is like a comparison of heaven and 
hell. England, like the earth, may be allowed to take 
the intermediate station. And yet I hear there are 
people among you, who think the experience of our 
governments has already proved, that republican govern 
ments will not answer. Send those gentry here, to 
count the blessings of monarchy. A king s sister, for 
instance, stopped in the road, and on a hostile journey, 
is sufficient cause for him to march immediately twenty 
thousand men to revenge the insult. 

To G. WYTHE. * You ask me in your letter what 
ameliorations I think necessary in our federal constitu 
tion. It is now too late to answer the question, and it 
would have always been presumption in me to have done 
it. Your own ideas, and those of the great characters 
who were to be concerned with you in these discussions, 
will give the law, as they ought to do, to us all. My 
own general idea was, that the States should severally 
preserve their sovereignty in whatever concerns them 
selves alone ; and that whatever may concern another 
State, or any foreign nation, should be made a part of 
the federal sovereignty ; that the exercise of the federal 
sovereignty should be divided among three several 


bodies, legislative, executive, and judiciary, as the State 
sovereignties are ; and that some peaceable means should 
be contrived, for the federal head to force compliance 
on the part of the States. 

To GENERAL WASHINGTON I remain in hopes of 
great and good effects from the decision of the assembly 
over which you are presiding. To make our States 
one, as to all foreign concerns, preserve them several as 
to all merely domestic, to give to the federal head some 
peaceable mode of enforcing its just authority, to or 
ganize that head into legislative, executive, and judi 
ciary departments, are great desiderata in our federal 
constitution. Yet with all its defects, and with all those 
of our particular governments, the inconveniences re 
sulting from them are so light, in comparison with those 
existing in every other government on earth, that our 
citizens may certainly be considered as in the happiest 
political situation which exists. 

On the 17th of September, 87, the national conven 
tion dissolved, and submitted the result of their labors 
to the world. The instrument was not without its de 
fects ; and as these were all on the side of power, and 
too palpable not to be detected by an intelligent peo 
ple, it excited among the more jealous partisans of li 
berty, such a tempest of opposition as rendered its ac 
ceptance by the nation extremely problematical. It was 
taken up by special conventions in the several States, in 
the years 87 and 88. The contest raged most severely 
in Virginia, New York, Massachusetts, and New Hamp 
shire. In these States, the public discussions were vehe 
ment and agitating; but the question was finally carried 
in favor of ratification, by small majorities, in all of them. 
In Georgia, New Jersey, and Delaware, the constitution 
was ratified without opposition; and by considerable 
majorities, in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Maryland, 
and South Carolina. North Carolina would only ac 
cept it upon the condition of previous amendments. 
Rhode Island declined calling a convention, and did not 



accede to the union until May, 1790. Six States rati 
fied without qualification, and seven with the recom 
mendation of certain specified amendments. 

Mr Jefferson received a copy of the new constitution 
early in November, 87. He read and contemplated its 
provisions with great satisfaction, though not without 
serious apprehensions from some of its features. His 
principal objections were, to the omission of a declaration 
of rights ensuring freedom of religion, freedom of the 
press, freedom of the person under the uninterrupted pro 
tection of the habeas corpus^ and the trial by jury in civil as 
well as criminal cases ; and to the perpetual re-eligibility 
of the president. His opinions were immediately con 
sulted by his political friends in the United States, and 
he communicated to them his approbations and objec 
tions, without reserve. They are found stated at length, 
and in a most interesting manner, in a letter to Mr 
Madison, dated Paris, December 20th, 1787. 

I like much the general idea of framing a government, 
which should go on of itself peaceably, without needing 
continual recurrence to the State legislatures. I like 
the organization of the government into legislative, judi 
ciary, and executive. I like the power given the legis 
lature to levy taxes, and for that reason solely, I ap 
prove of the greater house being chosen by the people 
directly. For though I think a house, so chosen, will 
be very far inferior to the present Congress, will be 
very illy qualified to legislate for the union, for foreign 
nations, &c; yet this evil does not weigh against the 
good of preserving inviolate the fundamental principle, 
that the people are not to be taxed but by representa 
tives chosen immediately by themselves. I am captiva 
ted by the compromise of the opposite claims of the 
great and little States, of the latter to equal, and the 
former to proportional influence. I am much pleased, 
too, with the substitution of the method of voting by 
persons, instead of that of voting by States ; and I like 
the negative given to the executive, conjointly with a 
third of either house ; though I should have liked it 


better, had the judiciary been associated for that pur 
pose, or invested separately with a similar power. 
There are other good things of less moment. 

I will now tell you what I do not like. First, the 
omission of a bill of rights, providing clearly, and with 
out the aid of sophism, for freedom of religion, freedom 
of the press, protection against standing armies, restric 
tion of monopolies, the eternal and unremitting force 
of the habeas corpus laws, and trials by jury in all^mat- 
ters of fact triable by the laws of the land, and not by 
the laws of nations. To say, as Mr Wilson does, that 
a bill of rights was not necessary, because all is re 
served in the case of the general government, which 
is not given, while in the particular ones, all is given 
which is not reserved, might do for the audience to 
which it was addressed ; but it is surely a gratis dictum, 
the reverse of which might just as well be said; and it 
is opposed by strong inferences from the body of the 
instrument, as well as from the omission of the clause 
of our present confederation, which had made the re 
servation in express terms. It was hard to conclude, 
because there had been a want of uniformity among 
the States as to the cases triable by jury, because some 
have been so incautious as to dispense with this mode 
of trial in certain cases, therefore the more prudent 
States shall be reduced to the same level of calamity. 
It would have been much more just and wise to have 
concluded the other way, that as most of the States had 
preserved, with jealousy, this sacred palladium of liberty, 
those who had wandered, should be brought back to 
it : and to have established general right, rather than 
general wrong. For I consider all the ill as establish 
ed, which may be established. I have a right to no 
thing, which another has a right to take away; and 
Congress will have a right to take away trials by jury 
in all civil cases. Let me add, that a bill of rights is 
what the people are entitled to against every govern 
ment on earth, general or particular ; and what no just 
government should refuse, or rest on inference. 

The second feature I dislike, and strongly dislike, 
is the abandonment, in every instance, of the principle 
of rotation in office, and most particularly in the case of 

240 LIFE OP 

the president. Reason and experience tell us, that the 
first magistrate will always be re-elected if he may be 
re-elected. He is then an officer for life. This once 
observed, it becomes of so much consequence to cer 
tain nations, to have a friend or a foe at the head of 
our affairs, that they will interfere with money and with 
arms. A Galloman, or an Angloman, will be supported 
by the nation he befriends. If once elected, and at a 
second or third, election outvoted by one or two votes, 
he will pretend false votes, foul play, hold possession of 
the reins of government, be supported by the States 
voting for him, especially if they be the central ones, 
lying in a compact body themselves, and separating 
their opponents ; and they will be aided by one nation 
in Europe, while the majority are aided by another. 
The election of a president of America, some years 
hence, will be much more interesting to certain nations 
of Europe, than ever the election of a king of Poland 
was. Reflect on all the instances in history, ancient 
and modern, of elective monarchies, and say, if they do 
not give foundation for my fears ; the Roman emperors, 
the Popes while they were of any importance, the Ger 
man emperors till they became hereditary in practice, 
the kings of Poland, the Deys of the Ottoman depen 
dencies. It may be said, that if elections are to be at 
tended with these disorders, the less frequently they are 
repeated the better. But experience says, that to free 
them from disorder, they must be rendered less interest 
ing by a necessity of change. No foreign power, nor 
domestic party, will waste their blood and money to 
elect a person, who must go out at the end of a short 
period. The power of removing every fourth year by 
the vote of the people, is a power which they will not 
exercise, and if they were disposed to exercise it, they 
would not be permitted. The king of Poland is re 
movable every day by the diet. But they never remove 
him. Nor would Russia, the emperor, &c, permit them 
to do it. Smaller objections are, the appeals on mat 
ters of fact as well as law; and the binding all persons, 
legislative, executive and judiciary, by oath, to main 
tain that constitution. I do not pretend to decide, what 
would be the best method of procuring the establish- 


snent of the manifold good things in this constitution, 
and of getting rid of the bad. Whether by adopting it, 
in hopes of future amendment; or, after it shall have 
been duly weighed and canvassed by the people, after 
seeing the parts they generally dislike, and those they 
generally approve, to say to them, * We see now what 
you wish. You are willing to give to your federal 
government such and such powers : but you wish, at 
the same time, to have such and such fundamental 
rights secured to you, and certain sources of convul 
sion taken away. Be it so. Send together your dep 
uties again. Let them establish your fundamental rights 
by sacrosanct declaration, and let them pass the parts 
of the constitution you have approved. These will give 
powers to your federal government sufficient for your 

This is what might be said, and would probably pro 
duce a speedy, more perfect, and more permanent form 
of government. At all events, I hope you will not be 
discouraged from making other trials, if the present one 
should fail. We are never permitted to despair of the 
commonwealth. I have thus told you freely what I like, 
and what I dislike, merely as a matter of curiosity ; for 
I know it is not in my power to offer matter of informa 
tion to your judgment, which has been formed after hear 
ing and weighing every thing which the wisdom of man 
could offer on these subjects. I own I am not a friend to 
a very energetic government. It is always oppressive. 
After all, it is my principle that the will 
of the majority should prevail. If they approve the 
proposed constitution in all its parts, I shall concur in it 
cheerfully, in hopes they will amend it, whenever they 
shall find it works wrong. This reliance cannot deceive 
us, as long as we remain virtuous ; and I think we shall 
be so, as long as agriculture is our principal object, 
which will be the case, while there remain vacant lands 
in any part of America. When we get piled upon one 
another in large cities, as in Europe, we shall become 
corrupt as in Europe, and go to eating one another as 
they do there. 

With the mass of good which it contained, Mr Jeffer 
son found, on a careful scrutiny, such a mixture of evil 



in the new constitution, that he was in doubt what course 
to recommend to his countrymen. How the good should 
be secured, and the ill avoided, was the great question, 
and presented great difficulties. To refer it back to a 
new convention, might jeopardize the whole, which was 
utterly inadmissible. His first advice, therefore, was 
that the nine States first acting upon it, should accept 
unconditionally, and thus secure whatever in it was wise 
and beneficial; and that the four States last acting, 
should accept only on the previous condition that certain 
amendments should be made. But he afterwards re 
commended the more prudent course of unconditional 
acceptance by the whole, with a concomitant declara 
tion that it should stand as a perpetual instruction to 
their respective delegates to endeavor to obtain such and 
such reformations. And this was the course finally 
adopted by nearly all the States. 

Much as has been said and written of Mr Jefferson s 
hostility to the federal constitution, there was not a per 
son in America who set a more solid value on it, even in 
its original form ; nor one who was impressed with more 
rational anxieties for its adoption. To estimate the 
force of his convictions upon this point, and the cogency 
of his endeavors to instil the same convictions into his 
countrymen, it is only necessary to consult the pages of 
his private correspondence. Adoring republicanism, 
hating monarchy, he discriminated with the sagacity of a 
profound statesman, between those features of the instru 
ment which were congenial, and those which were hos 
tile, to the principles of his political idolatry. While he 
gave all his soul to the preservation of the former, he de 
precated with equal sincerity any admixture of the lat 
ter, neither approving nor condemning in the mass. He 
was, therefore, neither a federalist nor an anti-federalist, 
as the advocates and opponents of the constitution were 
distinguished. He was an independent asserter of his 
opinions on questions of national concern, the most pro- 


found and interesting that had ever been submitted to 
the deliberation of the American people ; and he had 
the happiness to see those opinions, on almost every 
point, adopted by the nation and incorporated into its 
frame of government, by special emendatory acts. A 
few passages from his correspondence will evince his 
anxiety for the fate of the constitution, and his persever 
ance in the endeavor to obtain the amendments which he 
deemed so essential. 

To JAMES MADISON. f sincerely rejoice at the ac 
ceptance of our new constitution by nine States. It is 
a good canvass, on which some strokes only want re 
touching. What these are, I think are sufficiently man 
ifested by the genera] foice from north to south, which 
calls for a bill of rights. It seems pretty generally un 
derstood, that this should go to juries, habeas corpus, 
standing armies, printing, religion, and monopolies. I 
conceive there may be difficulty in finding general mod 
ifications of these, suited to the habits of all the States. 
But if such cannot be found, then it is better to establish 
trials by jury, the right of habeas corpus , freedom of the 
press, and freedom of religion, in all cases, and to abol 
ish standing armies in time of peace, and monopolies in 
all cases, than not to do it in any. The few cases where 
in these things may do evil, cannot be weighed against 
the multitude, wherein the want of them will do evil. 

To G. WASHINGTON. I have seen, with infinite 
pleasure, our new constitution accepted by eleven States, 
not rejected by the twelfth ; and that the thirteenth hap 
pens to be a State of the least importance. It is true, 
that the minorities in most of the accepting States have 
been very respectable ; so much so, as to render it pru 
dent, were it not otherwise reasonable, to make some 
sacrifice to them. I am in hopes, that the annexation of 
a bill of rights to the constitution will alone draw over 
so great a proportion of the minorities, as to leave little 
danger in the opposition of the residue ; and that this 
annexation may be made by Congress and the assem 
blies, without calling a convention, which might endan 
ger the most valuable parts of the system. 

244 LIFE OP 

To COL. HUMPHREYS. The operations which have 
tak&i place in America lately, fill me with pleasure. In 
the first place, they realize the confidence I had, that 
whenever our affairs go obviously wrong, the good sense 
of the people will interpose, and set them to rights. The 
example of changing a constitution, by assembling the 
wise men of the State, instead of assembling armies, 
will be worth as much to the world as the former exam 
ples we had given them. The constitution, too, which 
was the result of our deliberations, is unquestionably the 
wisest ever yet presented to man, and some of the ac 
commodations of interest which it has adopted, are 
greatly pleasing to me, who have before had occasions of 
seeing how difficult those interests were to accommodate. 
A general concurrence of opinion seems to authorize us 
to say it has some defects. I am one of those who think 
it a defect, that the important rights, not placed in secu 
rity by the frame of the constitution itself, were not ex 
plicitly secured by a supplementary declaration. There 
are rights w lich it is useless to surrender to the govern 
ment, and which governments have yet always been fond 
to invade. These are the rights of thinking, and pub 
lishing our thoughts by speaking or writing ; the right 
of free commerce ; the right of personal freedom. 
There are instruments for administering the government 
so peculiarly trust-worthy, that we should never leave 
the legislature at liberty to change them. The new con 
stitution has secured these in the executive and legisla 
tive departments ; but not in the judiciary. It should 
have established trials by the people themselves, that is 
to say, by jury. There are instruments so dangerous to 
the rights of the nation, and which place them so totally 
at the mercy of their governors, that those governors, 
whether legislative or executive, should be restrained 
from keeping such instruments on foot, but in well de 
fined cases. Such an instrument is a standing army. 
We are now allowed to say, such a declaration of rights, 
as a supplement to the constitution, where that is silent, 
is wanting, to secure us in these points. The general 
voice has legitimated this objection. It has not, however, 
authorized me to consider as a real defect, what I thought, 
and still think one, the perpetual re-eligibility of the 
president. But three States out of eleven having de- 


clared against this, we must suppose we are wrong, ac 
cording to the fundamental law of every society, the lex 
mqjoris partis, to which we are bound to submit. And 
should the majority change their opinion, and become 
sensible that this trait in their constitution is wrong, I 
would wish it to remain uncorrected, as long as we can 
avail ourselves of the services of our great leader, whose 
talents and whose weight of character, I consider as pe 
culiarly necessary to get the government so under way, 
as that it may afterwards be carried on by subordinate 

The ardor and perseverance of Mr Jefferson in the ef 
fort to obtain a supplementary bill of rights to the con 
stitution, were soon crowned with success. At the ses 
sion of 1789, Mr Madison submitted to Congress a series 
of amendments which, with various propositions on the 
same subject from other States, were referred to a com 
mittee of one from each State in the Union. The result 
was the annexation, in due form, of the ten original 
amendments to our federal constitution. So great was 
the influence of Mr Jefferson in forwarding this measure, 
though absent during the whole time, that lie is generally 
regarded as the father of these amendments. They 
embraced the principal objections urged by him without 
going far enough to satisfy him entirely. By them, the 
freedom of religion, of speech, and of the press, the 
right of the people to deliberate and petition for redress 
of grievances, the right of keeping and bearing arms, of 
the trial by jury in civil as well as criminal cases, the ex 
emption from general warrants and from the quartering 
of soldiers in private dwellings, were pronounced irre 
vocable and intangible by the government ; and the pow 
ers not delegated by the constitution, nor prohibited by it 
to the States, were declared to be reserved to the States or 
to the people. But the right of habeas corpus was still left 
to the discretion of Congress ; monopolies were not posi 
tively guarded against ; and standing armies in time of 
peace were not prohibited. His objections also against the 

246 i. LIFE OF 

perpetual re-eligibility of the president, although backed 
by the recommendation of three States, were not sanction 
ed by Congress. His fears of that feature were founded on 
the importance of the office, on the fierce contentions it 
might excite among ourselves, if continuable for life, and 
the dangers of interference, either with money or arms, 
by foreign nations, to whom the choice of an American 
president might become interesting. Examples of this 
abounded in history ; in the case of the Roman emper 
ors, for instance ; of the popes, while of any signifi 
cance ; of the German emperors ; the kings of Poland, 
and the deys of Barbary. But his apprehensions on this 
head gradually subsided, and finally became extinct, on 
witnessing the effect in practice. Alluding to his early 
opinions on this subject, he said in 1821 : 

My wish was, that the president should be elected for 
seven years, and be ineligible afterwards. This term I 
thought sufficient to enable him, with the concurrence of 
the legislature, to carry through and establish any sys 
tem of improvement he should propose for the general 
good. But the practice adopted, I think, is better, al 
lowing his continuance for eight years, with a liability to 
be dropped at half way of the term, making that a pe 
riod of probation. * * * The example of four 
presidents, voluntarily retiring at the end of their eighth 
year, and the progress of public opinion, that the prin 
ciple is salutary, have given it in practice the force of 
precedent and usage ; insomuch, that should a president 
consent to be a candidate for a third election, I trust he 
would be rejected, on this demonstration of ambitious 

There was another question agitated in the councils of 
the United States, during Mr Jefferson s residence in 
France, which he viewed with as much concern as the 
adoption of the constitution. This was the proposition 
to abandon the navigation of the Mississippi to the king 
of Spain, for the period of twenty -five or thirty years, as 
an equivalent for a treaty of commerce with that nation. 


John Jay, secretary of foreign affairs, who had been au 
thorized to institute a negotiation with the Spanish gov 
ernment, laid the proposition before Congress, as a se 
cret. The whole affair was veiled in darkness, and so 
continued until the year 1818, when a resolution was 
passed authorizing the publication of the secret journals 
of the old Congress. 

The proposition of Mr Jay created an angry excite 
ment in Congress. The scheme was resisted, with great 
warmth, by the States of Virginia, North Carolina, South 
Carolina, Maryland and Georgia, on the following grounds: 
1. It would dismember the union. 2. It would violate the 
compact of the national government with those States 
who had surrendered to it their western lands. 3. It 
would check the growth of the western country by de 
priving the inhabitants of a natural outlet for their pro 
ductions. 4. It would depreciate the value of the west 
ern lands, and sink proportionally a valuable fund for the 
payment of the national debt. 5. It would be such a 
sacrifice for particular purposes, as would be obvious to 
the least discerning. 

The proposition was sustained by all the New England 
States, with New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. 
These States moved in solid phalanx, ". and in silence, 
against every attempt to defeat, alter, or amend the pro 
posed terms of negotiation. The opposition were in de 
spair, when it occurred to them, that as the assent of 
nine States was necessary by the confederation to form 
treaties, the instructions given to Mr Jay were unconsti 
tutional, inasmuch as seven States only had voted them. 
A resolution was, therefore, introduced, declaring the 
original vote which had been taken, incompetent to con 
fer treaty making powers. But the reslution was neg 
atived by the same States, in the same mysterious man 
ner. A resolution was then offered, to. remove the in 
junction of secrecy, which shared the same fate. Finally, 
after a heated and protracted altercation, the minority 

248 LIFE OF 

succeeded so far as to obtain the authority to treat for an 
entrepot at New Orleans, and for the navigation of the 
Mississippi in common with Spain, down to the Floridas. 
A hint of these transactions having reached the ears 
of Mr Jefferson in Paris, he was exercised with the 
greatest inquietude and alarm. He considered the aban 
donment of the navigation of the Mississippi, as, ipse 
facto, a dismemberment of the union ; and he improved 
every occasion, in his letters to America, to impress on 
the leading members of the government, the ungrateful 
character and suicidal tendency of the measure. A 
single specimen, found in a letter to Mr Madison, da 
ted January 30, 87, will suffice to display the general 
tenor of an active and extensive correspondence, for 
several months, on this vitally interesting question. 

* If these transactions [insurrections] give me no un 
easiness, I feel very differently at another piece of intel 
ligence, to wit, the possibility that the navigation of the 
Mississippi may be abandoned to Spain. I never had 
any interest westward of the Allegany ; and I never will 
have any. But I have had great opportunities of know 
ing the character of the people who inhabit that country ; 
and I will venture to say, that the act which abandons 
the navigation of the Mississippi, is an act of separation 
between the eastern and western country. It is a relin- 
quishment of five parts out of eight of the territory of 
the United States; an abandonment of the fairest subject 
for the payment of our public debts, and the chaining 
those debts on our own necks, in pcrpetuum. I have the 
utmost confidence in the honest intentions of those who 
concur in this measure; but I lament their want of ac 
quaintance with the character and physical advantages 
of the people, who, right or wrong, will suppose their in 
terests sacrificed on this occasion to the contrary inter 
ests of that part of the confederacy in possession of pres 
ent power. If they declare themselves a separate peo 
ple, we are incapable of a single effort to retain them. 
Our citizens can never be induced, either as militia or as 
soldiers, to go there to cut the throats of their own broth- 


ers and sons, or rather, to be themselves the subjects, in 
stead of the perpetrators, of the parricide. Nor would 
that country quit the cost of being retained against the 
will of its inhabitants, could it be done. But it cannot 
be done. They are able already to rescue the naviga 
tion of the Mississippi out of the hands of Spain, and to 
add New Orleans to their own territory. They will be 
joined by the inhabitants of Louisiana. This will bring 
on a war between them and Spain ; and that will pro 
duce the question with us, whether it will not be worth 
our while to become parties with them in the war, in or 
der to re-unite them with us, and thus correct our error. 
And were I to permit my forebodings to go one step far 
ther, I should predict, that the inhabitants of the United 
States would force their rulers to take the affirmative of 
thai question. I wish I may be mistaken in all these 

The right of the United States to the free navigation 
of the Mississippi, in its whole extent, and the establish 
ment of that right upon an immovable basis, was a sub 
ject which early engrossed the attention of Mr Jefferson. 
He persevered in the effort through a period of fifteen 
years, in different public stations ; and his agency in 
producing the final result was scarcely less distinguished, 
though less direct and efficacious, than in procuring the 
acquisition of Louisiana. The question was not defini 
tively settled until 1803, when, being at the head of the 
nation, he appointed Mr Monroe minister to Madrid for 
the express purpose of concluding a final arrangement 
with that government, covering all the points at issue 
growing out of the subject. The mission was as honor 
able as it was successful. 

Mr Jefferson s watchfulness over the interests of Ame 
rica, while in Europe, was intense. Nothing escaped his 
notice, which he thought could be made useful in his 
own country. The southern States are indebted to him 
for the introduction of the culture of upland rice. In. 
1790, he procured a cask of this species of rice, from 

250 LIFE OF 

the river Denbigh in Africa, about latitude 9 deg. 30 min. 
north, which he sent to Charleston, in the hope that it 
would supersede the culture of the wet rice, which 
renders South Carolina and Georgia so pestilential 
through the summer. The quantity was divided at 
Charleston, and a part sent to Georgia, by his directions. 
The cultivation of this rice has now become general in 
the upper parts of Georgia and South Carolina, and is 
highly prized. It was supposed by Mr Jefferson, that 
it might be raised successfully in Tennessee and Ken 
tucky. He likewise endeavored to obtain the seed of 
the Cochin-China rice, for the purpose of introducing 
its cultivation in the same States ; but it does not appear 
whether he was successful or not. In the same spirit of 
attention to the interests of his country, he transmitted 
from Marseilles to Charleston, a great variety of olive 
plants, to be planted, by way of experiment in South 
Carolina and Georgia. The greatest service, says he, 
which can be rendered any country is, to add a useful 
plant to its culture ; especially a bread grain ; next in 
value to bread, is oil. These plants were tried, and 
are now flourishing at the South. Though not yet mul 
tiplied extensively, they have introduced that species of 
cultivation in those States. 

All the powers of Mr Jefferson seemed to kindle in 
the pursuit of multiplying objects of profitable agricul 
ture in America, and of improving the husbandry of 
those already established as staples. With this view, 
he made a tour into the south of France, and the 
northern parts of Italy, in which he passed three months. 
His plan was to visit the ports along the western and 
southern coast of France, particularly Marseilles, Bor 
deaux, Nantes, and L Orient, to obtain such information 
as would enable him to judge of the practicability of 
making farther improvements in our commerce with the 
southern provinces of France ; to visit the canal of Lan- 
guedoc, and possess himself of such information upon 


that kind of navigation, as might be useful to his coun 
trymen ; and thence to pass into the northern provinces 
of Italy, to examine the different subjects of culture in 
those munificent regions, and ascertain what improve 
ments might be made in America, in the culture and 
husbandry of rice and other staples common to both 
countries ; and what other, if any, productions of that 
climate might be advantageously introduced into the 
southern States. Another object with him was to try 
the mineral waters of Aix, in Provence, for a dislocated 
wrist, unsuccessfully set. 

He left Paris, therefore, on the 28th of February, 87, 
and proceeded up the Seine, through Champagne and 
Burgundy, and down the Rhone through the Beaujolais, 
by Lyons, Avignon, Nismes, to Aix. Receiving no 
benefit from the mineral waters of that place, he bent 
his course into the rice countries of Italy. On his 
return, he extended his journey through the south of 
France, and arrived at Paris. 

The novelty and variety of the scenes through which 
he passed, the multitude of curious and interesting 
objects which he encountered, presented a perpetual 
feast to his enquiring mind. From Nice, under date of 
April 19th, he writes to the Marquis de La Fayette : 

I am constantly roving about to see what I have 
never seen before, and shall never see again. In the 
great cities, I go to see what travellers think alone wor 
thy of being seen ; but I make a job of it, and generally 
gulp it all down in a day. On the other hand, I am 
never satiated with rambling through the fields and 
farms, examining the culture and cultivators with a de 
gree of curiosity, which makes some take me to be a 
fool, and others to be much wiser than I am. * * * 
From the first olive fields of Pierrelatte, to the orange 
ries of Hieres, it has been continued rapture to me. I 
have often wished for you. I think you have not made 
this journey. It is a pleasure you have to come, and an 
improvement to be added to the many you have already 

252 LIFE OF 

made. It will be a great comfort to you, to know, from 
your own inspection, the condition of all the provinces 
of your own country, and it will be interesting to them 
at some future day, to be known to you. This is, per 
haps, the only moment of your life, in which you can 
acquire that knowledge. Arid to do it most effectually, 
you must be absolutely incognito, you must ferret the 
people out of their hovels, as I have done, look into their 
kettles, eat their bread, loll on their beds under pretence 
of resting yourself, but in fact to find if they are soft. 
You will feel a sublime pleasure in the course of this . 
investigation, and a sublimer one hereafter, when you 
shall be able to apply your knowledge to the softening 
of their beds, or the throwing a morsel of meat into their 
kettle of vegetables. 

From Lyons to Nismes Mr Jefferson was nourished 
with the remains of Roman grandeur.* He was im 
mersed in antiquities from morning to night. He was 
transported back to the times of the Cassars, the intrigues 
of their courts, the oppressions of their prastors, and 
prefects. To him the city of Rome, as he averred, 
seemed actually existing in all the magnificence of its 
meridian glory ; and he was filled with alarm in the 
momentary anticipation of the irruptions of the Goths, 
Visigoths, Ostrogoths, and Vandals. Under date of 
Nismes, he writes to the Countess de Tesse, in a mood 
which evinced the extravagance of his passion for an 
cient architecture : 

4 Here I am, Madam, gazing whole hours at the Mai- 
son Quarree, like a lover at his mistress. The stocking- 
weavers and silk-spinners around it, consider me as an 
hypochondriac Englishman, about to write with a pistol 
the last chapter of his history. This is the second time 
I have been in love since 1 left Paris. The first was 
with a Diana at the Chateau de Lay-Epinaye in Beau- 
jolais, a delicious morsel of sculpture, by M. A. Slodtz. 
This, you will say, was in rule, to fall in love with a 
female beauty : but with a house ! It is out of all pre 
cedent. No, Madam, it is not without a precedent, in 


my own history. While in Paris, I was violently smitten 
with the Hotel de Salm, and used to go to the Tuileries, 
almost daily to look at it. The loueuse des chaises, inat 
tentive to my passion, never had the complaisance to 
place a chair there, so that, sitting on the parapet, and 
twisting my neck round to see the object of my admira 
tion, I generally left it with a torticolis. 

Mr Jefferson kept a diary of his excursion into Italy, 
in which he noted with minuteness, every circumstance 
which he thought might be made useful or instructive to 
his countrymen. Of these notes, which covered about 
fifty printed octavo pages, he made copies on his return, 
and transmitted them to General Washington and others 
in America, as containing hints capable of being improv 
ed to the benefit of the United States. His course of 
observation supplied him with materials for benefiting 
the commerce of the United States, in some essential 
particulars, for improving the quality in articles of staple 
growth, and increasing the subjects of cultivation, in 
some States. At Turin, Milan, and Genoa, he satisfied 
himself of the practicability of introducing our whale 
oil, for their consumption, and that of the other great 
cities of that country. The merchants with whom he 
asked conferences, met him freely, and communicated 
frankly ; but not being authorized to conclude a formal 
negotiation, he could only cultivate a general disposition 
to receive our oil merchants. He put matters into a 
train for inducing their governments to draw their to 
bacco directly from the United States, and not, as here 
tofore, from Great Britain. He procured the seeds of 
three different species of rice, from Piedmont, Lom- 
bardy, and the Levant, divided each quantity into three 
separate parcels, and forwarded them by as many dif 
ferent conveyances, to Charleston, in order to ensure a 
safe arrival. He questioned the utility of engaging in 
the cultivation of the vine in the southern States, under 
the present circumstances of their population. Wines 


254 LIFE OF 

were so cheap in those countries, that a laborer with us, 
employed in the culture of any other article, might ex 
change it for wine, more and better than he could raise 
himself. It might, hereafter, become a profitable re 
source to us, when a more dense population shall have 
increased our supply of raw materials beyond the demand 
at home and abroad. Instead of augmenting the useless 
surplus of them, the supernumerary hands might then be 
employed on the vine. The introduction of the fig, the 
mulberry, and the olive, he strongly recommended to the 
cultivators in the southern parts of the United States. 
With jthe olive tree, in particular, he was so pleased, 
that he declared it next to the most precious, if not the 
most precious of all the gifts of heaven to man. He 
thought, perhaps, it might claim a preference even to 
bread, considering the infinitude of vegetables, to which 
it added a proper and comfortable nutriment. 

As in commerce and agriculture, so in the manufac 
turing interest, Mr Jefferson was indefatigable in en 
deavoring to benefit his country. Of every new inven 
tion and discovery in the arts, he was prompt to commu 
nicate the earliest ^intelligence to Congress, or to indi 
vidual artists and professors. Among these, the most 
remarkable were the principle of stereotyping, which he 
communicated in 1786 ; and the mode of constructing 
muskets, which he communicated about the same time, 
It consisted in making all. the parts of the musket so 
exactly alike, as that, mixed together promiscuously, 
any one part should serve equally for every musket in 
the magazine. * Of those improvements which were 
claimed as original in Europe, but of which America 
was entitled to the merit of a prior discovery, his know 
ledge enabled him to detect the imposition, and his pa- 

* This attempt has never been completely successful in Europe 
or America, until accomplished by captain Hall, in the manufac 
ture of his improved rifle. He is now exclusively employed by the 
United States, at Harper s Ferry, Va. 


triotism incited him to vindicate the honor of his own 
countrymen. This was in fact the case in several in 

In the sciences and the fine arts, Mr Jefferson was 
equally assiduous to advance the reputation of his rising 
country. His letters to president Stiles, to the presi 
dent of William and Mary College, to the president of 
Harvard University, to Rittenhouse, Charles Thompson 
and others, are illustrations of his zeal and efficiency in 
these pursuits. 

Their advances in science and in the arts of sculpture, 
painting and music, were the only things, he declared, 
for which he envied the people of France ; and for these 
he absolutely did envy them. His passion for the few 
remains of ancient architecture which existed, was un 
bounded, and his efforts unremitting for introducing 
samples of them in America, for the purpose of encour 
aging a style of architecture analogous to the Roman 
model. In June, 1785, he received a request from the 
directors of the public buildings in Virginia, to procure 
and transmit them plans for the capitol, palace, <fcc. 
He immediately engaged an architect of great abilities, 
for this purpose, and directed him to take for his model 
the Maison Quarrec of Nismes, which he considered the 
most precious and perfect morsel of antiquity in exist 
ence. But what was his surprise and regret on learn 
ing, a short time after, that the buildings were actually 
begun, without waiting for the receipt of his plans. 
Pray try, he writes to Mr Madison, if you can effect 
the stopping of this work. The loss is not to be weighed 
in the saving of money which will arise, against the comfort 
of laying out the public money for something honorable, 
the satisfaction of seeing an object and proof of national 
good taste, and the regret and mortification of erecting 
a monument of our barbarism, which will be loaded with 
execrations as long as it shall endure. You see I am 
an enthusiast on the subject of the arts. But it is an 

256 LIFE OF 

enthusiasm of which I am not ashamed, as its object is 
to improve the taste of my countrymen, to increase their 
reputation, to reconcile to them the respect of the world, 
and procure them its praise. 

The specimens we have given exhibit but a slender 
outline of a series of correspondence, public and private, 
comprising more than three hundred letters, chiefly to 
his friends in the United States, all breathing the same 
devotion to the interests of his country, in every imagin 
able department, from the most intricate points of ab 
stract science, and the most momentous questions of na 
tional policy, down to essays on the most simple processes 
in agriculture and domestic economy. He was at the same 
time in habits of correspondence with many distinguished 
characters, literary and political, in most of the nations 
of Europe. His philosophical reputation and powers 
established him in ready favor with the constellation of 
bold thinkers, which then illuminated France ; and much 
of his attention was necessarily, perhaps advantageously, 
occupied in the metaphysical discussions of the day. He 
was on terms of intimacy with the Abbe Morellet, Con- 
dorcet, D Alembert, Mirabeau, &c ; and he renewed his 
discussion in natural science, with Mons. de Buffon, to 
whom he had already given such a foretaste of his abili-* 
ties, in his Notes on Virginia. The ladies of that gay 
capital, who maintain so powerful an ascendency in all 
its circles, were delighted in his society, and pressed him 
into their correspondence. At the solicitation of the 
authors of the Encyclopedic Methodique, the most popu 
lar work then publishing in Paris, Mr Jefferson prepared 
for insertion several articles on the United States, giving 
a history of the government, from its origin to the adop 
tion of the constitution. One of the authors of that 
work had made the society of the Cincinnati the subject 
of a libel on our government and its great military lead 
er. But before committing it to the press, he submitted 
it to Mr Jefferson for examination. He found it a tissue 


of errors, a mere philippic against the institution, in which 
there appeared an utter ignorance of facts and motives, 
He wrote over the whole article; in which he vindicated 
the motives of General Washington and his brother offi 
cers from every liability to reproach. His own opinions, 
however, of the ultimate effects of that institution, un 
derwent such a change during his residence in Europe, 
as induced him to recommend its total extinction ; which 
he did, in a letter to General Washington, November 

Such are some of the numerous and diversified servi 
ces performed by Mr Jefferson in his private, unofficial 
capacity. The circumstance ought not to be overlooked, 
that these attentions to the general interests of the Unit 
ed States, were exercised amidst the labors and anxie 
ties of a multiplicity of public avocations. His diplo 
matic correspondence with the Count de Vergennes, the 
most subtile and powerful minister in Europe, was unin 
terrupted, and in point of urgency in behalf of America, 
remains unrivalled. His correspondence with the bankers 
of the United States at Amsterdam and Paris, to pre 
serve the credit of the United States, was constant, and 
laborious ; and his exertions for the redemption of Amer 
ican captives at Algiers, for establishing a general coali 
tion of all the civilized powers against the piratical 
States, and, on the failure of that, for negotiating treaties 
of peace with them, on the most favorable terms, have 
seldom been equalled. 

But of all the private labors of Mr Jefferson in behalf 
of his country, none were more useful, none more praise 
worthy and patriotic, than those which were directed to 
the moral improvement of the rising generation. It was 
to them he looked, and not to those then on the stage, 
for the perfection of the glorious political work which he 
had exhausted every resource and sacrificed every com 
fort in advancing; and his ambition appeared insatiable 
to fashion their minds, their habits, their tastes and prin 
ciples, after the model of the generation of 76, 

258 LIFE OF 

It was Mr Jefferson s fortune to be an eye-witness of 
the opening scenes of that tremendous revolution, which 
began so gloriously and ended so terribly for France. 
The immediate and exciting cause of this struggle for 
political reformation, he ascribes to the influence of the 
American example and American ideas. In his notes on 
that event, he says : 

4 The American revolution seems first to have awaken 
ed the thinking part of the French nation, in general, 
from the sleep of despotism into which they were sunk. 
The officers, too, who had been to America, were most 
ly young men, less shackled by habit and prejudice, and 
more ready to assent to the suggestions of common 
sense, and feeling of common rights, than others. They 
came back to France with new ideas and impressions. 
The press, notwithstanding its shackles, began to dissem 
inate them ; conversation assumed new freedoms ; pol 
itics became the theme of all societies, male and female ; 
and a very extensive and zealous party was formed, which 
acquired the appellation of the patriotic party, who, sen 
sible of the abusive government under which they lived, 
sighed for occasions for reforming it. This party com 
prehended all the honesty of the kingdom sufficiently at 
leisure to think, the men of letters, the easy Bourgeois, 
the young nobility, partly from reflection, partly from 
mode ; for these sentiments became matter of mode, and, 
as such, united most of the young women to the party. 

The part sustained by Mr Jefferson in the early stages 
of the French revolution, was of a weighty and promi 
nent character. It has not yet been incorporated into 
written history, but the late revelation of his cabinet to 
the world will soon place it there, when it will constitute 
one of the most interesting features of his posthumous 

Possessing the confidence and intimacy of many of 
the leading patriots, and more than all, of the Marquis 
de la Fayette, their head and Atlas, he was consulted by 
them, at every step, on measures of importance ; and 


the prudence of his counsels, which were implicitly fol 
lowed while they could have the benefit of them, retard 
ed the moment of convulsion and civil war until after his 
withdrawal from the scene of action. Coming from a 
country which had successfully passed through a similar 
struggle, his acquaintance was eagerly sought, and his 
opinions carried with them an authority almost oracular. 
In attempting the redress of present grievances, he re 
commended a mild and gradual reformation of abuses, 
one after another, at suitable intervals, so as not to re 
volt the conciliatory dispositions of the king ; and in pro 
viding against their recurrence in future, by remodelling 
the principles of the government, he recommended cau 
tious approaches to republicanism, to give time for the 
growth of public opinion, and work a peaceable regene 
ration of the political system, by slow and successive im 
provements through a series of years. The interest he 
felt in the passing revolution, and his anxiety for the final 
result, were very great. He considered a successful 
reformation of government in France, as insuring a gen 
eral reformation through Europe, and the resurrection to 
a new life of a people now ground to dust by the op 
pressions of the constituted powers. 

He went daily from Paris to Versailles, to attend the 
debates of the States General, and continued there until 
the hour of adjournment. This assembly had been con 
vened as a mediatorial power between the government 
and the people ; and it was well understood that the king 
would now concede, 1, Freedom of the person by ha 
beas corpus ; 2, Freedom of conscience ; 3, Freedom of 
the press ; 4, Trial by jury ; 5, A representative legis 
lature ; 6, Annual meetings ; 7, The origination of 
laws ; 8, The exclusive right of taxation and appropri 
ation ; and 9, The responsibility of ministers. Mr Jef 
ferson urged most strenuously, an immediate compro 
mise, upon the basis of these concessions ; and the in 
stant adjournment of the assembly for a year. They 

260 LIFE OF 

came from the very heart of the king, who had not a 
wish but for the good of the nation ; and these improve 
ments, if accepted and carried into effect, he had no 
doubt would be maintained during the present reign, 
which would be long enough for them to take some root 
in the constitution, and be consolidated by the attach 
ment of the nation. 

He most eagerly contended they could obtain in fu 
ture, whatever might be farther necessary to improve 
their constitution, and perfect their freedom and happi 
ness. They thought otherwise, however, says he, and 
events have proved their lamentable error. For, after 
thirty years of war, foreign and domestic, the loss of 
millions of lives, the prostration of private happiness, 
and the foreign subjugation of their own country for a 
time, they have obtained no more, nor even that secure 
ly. They were unconscious of (for who could foresee ?) 
the melancholy sequel of their well-meant perseverance ; 
that their physical force would be usurped by a tyrant to 
trample on the independence, and even the existence, of 
other nations ; that this would afford a fatal example for 
the atrocious conspiracy of kings against their people ; 
would generate their unholy and homicidal alliance to 
make common cause among themselves, and to crush by 
the power of the whole, the efforts of any part, to mod 
erate their abuses and oppressions. 

In the evening of August 4th, on motion of the Vis 
count de Noailles, brother-in-law of La Fayette, the as 
sembly abolished all titles of rank, all the abusive privi 
leges of feudalism, the tythes and casuals of the clergy, 
all provincial privileges, and in fine the feudal regimen 
generally. Many days were employed in putting into 
the form of laws, the numerous revocations of abuses : 
after which they proceeded to the preliminary work of a 
declaration of rights. An instrument of this kind had 
been prepared by Mr Jefferson and La Fayette, and sub 
mitted to the assembly by the latter on the llth of July ; 


but the sudden occurrence of acts of violence had sus 
pended all proceedings upon it. There being much con 
cord of opinion on the elements of this instrument, it was 
liberally framed, and passed with a very general appro 
bation. They then appointed a committee to prepare a 
projet of a constitution ; at the head of which was the 
archbishop of Bordeaux. From him, in the name of 
the committee, Mr Jefferson received a letter, request 
ing him to attend and assist at their deliberations. But 
he excused himself, on the obvious considerations that 
his mission was to the king, as chief magistrate of the 
nation, that his duties were limited to the concerns of 
his own country, and forbade his intermeddling with the 
internal transactions of France, where he had been re 
ceived under a specific character only. 

In this critical state of things, Mr Jefferson received 
a note from the Marquis la Fayette, informing him that 
he should bring a party of six or eight friends, to ask a 
dinner of him the next day. He assured him of their 
welcome. When they came, there were La Fayette him 
self and seven others, leaders of the different divisions 
of the reform party, but honest men, and sensible of the 
necessity of effecting a coalition by mutual sacrifices. 
Their object in soliciting this conference, was to avail 
themselves of the counsel and mediation of the Ameri 
can minister, and to effect a reconciliation upon terms 
which he should prescribe. The discussions began at the 
hour of four, and were continued till ten o clock in the 
evening ; during which Mr Jefferson was witness to a 
* coolness and candor of argument unusual in political 
conflicts, to a logical reasoning, and a chaste eloquence, 
disfigured by no gaudy tinsel of rhetoric or declamation, 
which he thought worthy of being placed in parallel with 
the finest dialogues of antiquity, as handed to us by 
Xenophen, by Plato, and Cicero. 

The result of this conference decided the fate of the 
French constitution. It was mutually agreed, on the ad- 



vice of Mr Jefferson, that the king should have a suspen 
sive veto on the laws ; that the legislature should be 
composed of a single body only ; and that it should be 
chosen by the people. This agreement united the patriots 
on a common ground. They all rallied to the principles 
thus settled, carried every question agreeably to them, 
and reduced the aristocracy to impotence and insignifi 

But duties of exculpation were now incumbent upon 
Mr Jefferson. He waited the next morning on Count 
Montmorin, minister of foreign affairs, and explained to 
him with truth and candor, how it happened that his 
house had been made the scene of conferences of such 
a character. Montmorin told him he already knew every 
thing which had passed ; that so far from taking umbrage 
at his conduct on that occasion, he earnestly wished he 
would habitually assist at such conferences, being satisfi 
ed he would be useful in moderating the warmer spirits, 
and promoting a wholesome and practicable reformation 
only. Mr Jefferson told him he knew too well the duties 
he owed to the king, to the nation, and to his own coun 
try, to take any part in the transactions of their internal 
government ; and that he should persevere, with care, in 
the character of a neutral and passive spectator, with 
wishes only, and very sincere ones, that those measures 
might prevail, which would be for the greatest good of 
the nation. * I have no doubt, indeed, says Mr Jeffer 
son, that this conference was previously known and ap 
proved by this honest minister, who was in confidence 
and communication with the patriots, and wished for a 
reasonable reformation of the constitution. 

At this auspicious stage of the French revolution, Mr 
Jefferson retired from the scene of action ; and the wis 
dom and moderation of his counsels ceased with the op 
portunities of imparting them. He left France, with 
warm and unabated expectations that no serious commo 
tion would take place, and that the nation would soon 


settle down in the quiet enjoyment of a great degree 
of acquired liberty, to go on improving its condition 
by future and successive ameliorations, but never to 
retrograde. The example of the United States had 
been viewed as their model on all occasions, and with an 
authority like that of the bible, open to explanation, but 
not to question. The king had now become a passive 
machine in the hands of the national assembly, and had 
he been left to himself, would probably have acquiesced 
in their determinations. A wise constitution would have 
been formed, hereditary in his line, himself at its head, 
with powers so large as to enable him to execute all the 
good of his station, and so limited as to restrain him from 
its abuse. This constitution he would have faithfully ad 
ministered, and more than this he never wished. Such 
was the belief and the hope of Mr Jefferson ; and to one 
source alone, he ascribed the overthrow of all these fond 
anticipations, and the deluge of crimes and cruelties 
which subsequently desolated France. To the despotic 
and disastrous influence of a single woman, he attributed 
the horrible catastrophe of the French revolution ! 

But he had a queen of absolute sway over his weak 
mind and timid virtue, and of a character the reverse of 
his in all points. This angel, as gaudily painted in 
the rhapsodies of Burke, with some smartness of fancy, 
but no sound sense, was proud, disdainful of restraint, 
indignant at all obstacles to her will, eager in the pur 
suit of pleasure, and firm enough to hold to her desires, 
or perish in their wreck. Her inordinate gambling and 
dissipations, with those of the Count d Artois, and 
others of her clique, had been a sensible item in the ex 
haustion of the treasury, which called into action the re 
forming hand of the nation ; and her opposition to it, 
her inflexible perverseness, and dauntless spirit, led her 
self to the guillotine, drew the king on with her, and 
plunged the world into crimes and calamities which wilJ 
for ever stain the pages of modern history. 1 have ever 
believed, that had there been no queen, there would 
have been no revolution. No force would have been 

264 1.1 VV. OF 

provoked, nor exercised. The king would have gone 
hand in hand with the wisdom of his sounder counsel 
lors, who, guided by the increased lights of the age, 
wished only, with the same pace, to advance the prin 
ciples of their social constitution. The deed which 
closed the mortal course of these sovereigns, I shall 
neither approve nor condemn. I am not prepared to 
say, that the first magistrate of a nation cannot commit 
treason against his country, or is unamenable to its 
punishment : nor yet, that where there is no written 
law, no regulated tribunal, there is not a law in our 
hearts, and a power in our hands, given for righteous 
employment in maintaining right, and redressing wrong. 
Of those who judged the king, many thought him wil 
fully criminal ; many, that his existence would keep the 
nation in perpetual conflict with the horde of kings, who 
would war against a regeneration which might come 
home to themselves, and that it were better that one 
should die than all. I should not have voted with this 
portion of the legislature. I should have shut up the 
queen in a convent, putting harm out of her power, and 
placed the king in his station, investing him with limited 
powers, which, I verily believe, he would have honestly 
exercised, according to the measure of his understand 
ing. In this way, no void would have been created, 
courting the usurpation of a military adventurer, nor oc 
casion given for those enormities which demoralized the 
nations of the world, and destroyed, and is yet to de 
stroy, millions and millions of its inhabitants. 

Mr Jefferson had been more than a year soliciting 
leave to return to America, with a view to place his 
daughters in the society of their friends, to attend to 
some domestic arrangements of pressing moment, and 
to resume his station for a short time, at Paris ; but it 
was not until the last of August that he received the 
permission desired. 

The generous tribute which he has paid to the French 
nation, at this point in his auto-biographical notes, dis 
closes the state of feeling with which he quitted a coun 
try, where he had passed so various and useful a por 
tion of his public life. 


* And here I cannot leave this great and good country, 
without expressing my sense of its pre-eminence of cha 
racter among the nations of the earth. A more benevo 
lent people 1 have never known, nor greater warmth and 
devotedness in their select friendships. Their kindness 
and accommodation to strangers is unparalleled, and the 
hospitality of Paris is beyond any thing I had conceived 
to be practicable in a large city. Their eminence, too, 
in science, the communicative dispositions of their 
scientific men, the politeness of the general manners, 
the ease and vivacity of their conversation, give a charm 
to their society, to be found no where else, In a com 
parison of this with other countries, we have the proof 
of primacy, which was given to Themistocles after the 
battle of Salamis. Every general voted to himself the 
first reward of valor, and the second to Themistocles. 
So, ask the travelled inhabitant of any nation, in what 
country on earth would you rather live ? Certainly, 
in my own, where are all my friends, my relations, and 
the earliest and sweetest affections and recollections 
of my life. Which would be your second choice ? 

On the 26th of September, 1789, Mr Jefferson left 
Paris for America. lie was detained at Havre by con 
trary winds, until the 8th of October, when he crossed 
over to Cowes, where he was again detained by contrary 
winds, until the 22tl, when he embarked and landed at 
Norfolk, Virginia, on the 23d of November. On his 
way to Monticello he passed some days at Eppington, 
in Chesterfield county, the residence of his friend and 
connection, Mr Eppes ; and while there he received a 
letter from the president, General Washington, by ex 
press, covering an appointment of secretary of State to 
the new government. Gratifying as was this high testi 
monial of his public estimation, the highest in the power 
of the president to confer, he nevertheless received it 
with real regret. His wish had been to return to Paris, 
where he had left his household establishment, to see 
the end of the revolution, which he then thought would 

266 LIFE OP 

be certainly and happily closed in less than a year, and 
to make that the epoch of his retirement from all pub 
lic employments. I then meant, says he, to return 
home, to withdraw from political life, into which I had 
been impressed by the circumstances of the times, to 
sink into the bosom of my family and friends, and de 
vote myself to studies more congenial to my mind. In 
a letter to Mr Madison, a short time before leaving Paris, 
he writes : You ask me if I would accept any appoint 
ment on that side of the water ? You know the circum 
stances which led me from retirement, step by step, and 
from one nomination to another, up to the present. 
My object is a return to the same retirement. When, 
therefore, I quit the present, it will not be to engage in 
any other office, arid most especially any one which 
would require a constant residence from home. 1 In a 
letter to another friend in Virginia, the same sentiment 
is pursued : Your letter has kindled all the fond recol 
lections of ancient times ; recollections much dearer to 
me than any thing I have known since. There are 
minds which can be pleased by honors and preferments ; 
but I see nothing in them but envy and enmity. It is 
only necessary to possess them, to know how little they 
contribute to happiness, or rather how hostile they are 
to it. No attachments soothe the mind so much as 
those contracted in early life ; nor do I recollect any 
societies which have given me more pleasure, than those 
of which you have partaken with me. I had rather be 
shut up in a very modest cottage, with my books, my 
family, and a few old friends, dining on simple bacon, 
and letting the world roll on as it liked, than to occupy 
the most splendid post, which any human power can 

In his answer to the president, under date of Decem 
ber 15th, he expressed these dispositions frankly, and 
his preference of a return to Paris ; but assured him at 
the same time, that if it was believed he could be more 


useful in the administration of the government, he would 
sacrifice his own inclinations without hesitation, and 
repair to that destination. He arrived at Monticello, 
on the 23d of December, where he received a second 
letter from the president, expressing his continued wishes 
that he would accept the department of State, if not 
absolutely irreconcilable with his inclinations. This 
silenced his reluctance, and he accepted the new ap 
pointment. He left Monticello on the 1st of March, 
1790, arrived at New-York, the then seat of govern 
ment, on the 21st, and immediately entered on the du 
ties of his station. 

In the short interval which he passed at Monticello, 
his eldest daughter was married to Thomas M. Ran 
dolph, eldest son of the Tuckahoe branch of Randolphs, 
who afterwards filled a dignified station in the general 
government, and, at length, the executive chair of Vir 
ginia for a number of years. 

268 LIFE OP 


MR JEFFERSON S arrival at the seat of government, in 
the character of secretary of State, completed the or 
ganization of the first administration under the present 
constitution of the United States. The new system had 
been in operation about one year. George Washington 
had been unanimously elected president, and inaugura 
ted on the 30th of April, 1789. John Adams was 
vice president ; Alexander Hamilton, secretary of the 
treasury ; Henry Knox, secretary of war ; and Ed 
mund Randolph, attorney general. 

Of this cabinet, Alexander Hamilton was enjoying 
the unlimited confidence of the president ; and acquired 
a preponderating influence in directing the measures of 
the administration. But his political opinions, with such 
advantages of personal ascendency, rendered him per 
haps a dangerous minister at this crisis of our present 
government. The political character of the secretary 
of the treasury, is drawn with a discriminating hand 
by Mr Jefferson, in his private memoranda of that 

A conversation began on other matters, by some cir 
cumstance, was led to the British Constitution, on which 
Mr Adams observed, " Purge that constitution of its 
corruption, and give to its popular branch equality of 
representation, and it would be the most perfect constitu 
tion ever devised by the wit of man." Hamilton paused 
and said, " Purge it of its corruption, and give to its 


popular branch equality of representation, and it would 
become an impracticable government ; as it stands at 
present, with all its supposed defects, it is the most per 
fect government which ever existed." And this was as 
suredly the exact line which separated the political creeds 
of these two gentlemen. The one was for two hereditary 
branches and an honest elective one ; the other for an 
hereditary king, with a house of lords and commons 
corrupted to his will, and standing between him and the 
people. Hamilton was, indeed, a singular character. 
Of acute understanding, disinterested, honest, and hon 
orable in all private transactions, amiable in society, and 
duly valuing virtue in private life, yet so bewitched and 
perverted by the British example, as to be under thorough 
conviction that corruption was essential to the govern 
ment of a nation. J 

The following note of a conversation with Mr Hamil 
ton, dated August 13th, 1791, presents a more favorable 
view of his sentiments, and seems due to him as a matter 
of justice. 

4 Alexander Hamilton, in condemning Mr Adams writ 
ings, and most particularly Davila, as having a tendency 
to weaken the present government, declared in substance 
as follows : " I own it is my own opinion, though I do 
not publish it in Dan or Beersheba, that the present gov 
ernment is not that which will answer the ends of society, 
by giving stability and protection to its rights, and that 
it will probably be found expedient to go into the British 
form. However, since we have undertaken the experi 
ment, I am for giving it a fair course, whatever my ex 
pectations may be. The success, indeed, so far, is greater 
than I had expected, and therefore, at present, success 
seems more possible than it had done heretofore, and 
there are still other stages of improvement, which, if 
the present does not succeed, may be tried, and ought 
to be tried, before we give up the republican form al 
together ; for that mind must be really depraved, which 
would not prefer the equality of political rights, which 
is the foundation of pure republicanism, if it can be 
obtained consistently with order. Therefore, whoever 
by his writings disturbs the present order of things, 

270 LIFE OF 

is really blameable, however pure his intentions may be, 
and he was sure Mr Adams were pure." This is the 
substance of a declaration made in much more lengthy 
terms, and which seemed to be more formal than usual 
for a private conversation between two, and as if intend 
ed to qualify some less guarded expressions which had 
been dropped on former occasions. Th. Jefferson has 
committed it to writing in the moment of A. Hamilton s 
leaving the room. 

Such were the strong aristocratical elements which 
entered into the composition of General Washington s 
cabinet. Against this weight of opinion, Mr Jefferson 
constituted the great republican check, and the only one, 
except on some occasions, when he was supported by 
the attorney general. 

No other office under tbc government of the United 
States, comprehends so wide a range of objects, or in 
volves duties of such magnitude, as the department of 
State. It embraces the whole mass of foreign, and the 
principal of the domestic administration. To the first 
order of capacity, and the greatest versatility of talent, 
it is indispensable that the organ of this important de 
partment should unite an intimate and extensive know 
ledge of the foreign and domestic relations of the coun 
try, a familiarity with the object and duties of govern 
ment, and a profound acquaintance with history and hu 
man nature. If these qualifications are rightly deemed 
essential in ordinary times and under any circumstan 
ces, how much more was their possession necessary, at 
the opening of the new government ? Before it had 
formed a character among nations, and when the im 
pulse and direction which should then be given to it, 
would establish that character, perhaps forever 1 Be 
fore its internal faculties and capabilities were developed, 
but while they were in the process of development ? 
The share which Mr Jefferson had in marshalling the 
domestic resources of the republic, and fixing them upon 
a lucrative foundation, in shaping the subordinate fea- 


tures of its political organization, and, more especially, 
in establishing the principles of its foreign policy, con 
stitutes one of the most important epochs in his public 

Among his labors which were of a character not 
necessarily appertaining to the duties of his department, 
and, indeed, belonging more properly to some one or 
more of the ordinary committees of Congress, were 

Report of a plan for establishing a uniform system 
of coins, weights and measures in the United States. 

Report on the cod and whale fisheries. 

Report on the commerce and navigation of the United 

They were of a peculiar nature, growing out of the 
infancy of the republic, and the imperfect development 
and organization of its resources ; and as such their 
execution, in a faithful and satisfactory manner, required 
an accurate knowledge of the condition of the country, 
with the exercise of the most patient investigation and 
varied practical talents. The manner in which these 
difficult and important trusts were discharged by Mr 
Jefferson, commanded the admiration of his country. 

1. The report of the secretary of State containing a 
plan for establishing a uniform system of coins, weights 
and measures, was executed with uncommon dispatch, 
considering the intricacy of the subject, and the novelty 
of the experiment. He received the order of Congress 
on the 15th of April, 1790, when an illness of several 
weeks supervened, which, with the pressure of other 
business, retarded his entering upon the undertaking 
until some time in the ensuing month. He finished it, 
however, on the 20th of May. One branch of the sub 
ject, that of coins, had already received his attention, 
while a member of Congress, in 1784 ; and it had then 
occurred to him, that a corresponding uniformity in the 
kindred branches, of weights and measures, would be 

272 LIFE OF 

easy of introduction, and a desirable improvement. But 
the idea was not pursued by him, except for his own 
private gratification ; having procured an odometer of 
curious construction upon this principle. He used to 
carry it, when travelling, and note the distances in miles, 
cents and mills. 

In sketching the principles of his system, Mr Jeffer 
son was dependent on his own judgment. It was in 
vain to look to the nations of the old world, for an ex 
ample to direct him in his researches. No such exam 
ple existed. It should be remarked, however, that two 
of the principal European governments, France and 
England, were at this very period, learnedly engaged on 
the same subject. 

The first object which presented itself to his enquiries, 
was the discovery of some measure of invariable length, 
as a standard. This was found to be a matter of no 
small difficulty. 

There exists not in nature, as far as has been hither 
to observed, a single subject or species of subject, acces 
sible to man, which presents one constant and uniform 

4 The globe of the earth itself, indeed, might be con 
sidered as invariable in all its dimensions, and that its 
circumference would furnish an invariable measure : but 
no one of its circles, great or small, is accessible to ad 
measurement through all its parts ; and the various trials, 
to measure definite portions of them, have been of such 
various result, as to show there is no dependence on that 
operation for certainty. 

* Matter, then, by its mere extension, furnishing no 
thing invariable, its motion is the only remaining re 

The motion of the earth round its axis, though not 
absolutely uniform and invariable, may be considered as 
such for every human purpose. It is measured obvi 
ously, but unequally, by the departure of a given me 
ridian from the sun, and its return to it, constituting a 


solar day. Throwing together the inequalities of solar 
days, a mean interval, or day, has been found, and di 
vided, by very general consent, into eighty-six thousand 
four hundred equal parts. 

A pendulum, vibrating freely, in small and equal 
arcs, may be so adjusted in its length, as, by its vibra 
tions, to make this division of the earth s motion into 
eighty-six thousand four hundred equal parts, called 
seconds of mean time. 

4 Such a pendulum, then, becomes itself a measure of 
determinate length, to which all others may be referred, 
as to a standard. 

But even the pendulum was not without its uncer 
tainties. Among these, not the least was the fact, that 
the period of its vibrations varied in different latitudes. 
To obviate this objection, he proposed to fix on some 
one latitude to which the standard should refer. That 
of 38 deg. being the mean latitude of the United States, 
he adopted it at first; but afterwards, on receiving a 
printed copy of a proposition of the bishop of Autun to 
the national assembly of France, in which the author 
had recommended the 45th deg., he concluded to substi 
tute that in the room of 38 deg., for the sake of uni 
formity with a nation, with whom we were connected in 
commerce ; and in the hope that it might become a line 
of union with the rest of the world. 

Having adopted the pendulum vibrating seconds in the 
45th deg. of latitude, as a standard of invariable length, 
he proceeded to identify, by that, the measures, weights 
and coins of the United States. But, unacquainted Avith 
the extent of reformation meditated by Congress, he 
submitted two plans. First, on the supposition that the 
difficulty of changing the established habits of a whole 
nation, opposed an insuperable bar to a radical refor 
mation, he proposed that the present weights and meas 
ures should be retained, but be rendered uniform, by 
bringing them to the same invariable standard. Second 
ly, on the hypothesis that an entire reformation was 

274 LIFE OF 

contemplated, he proposed the adoption of a unit of 
measure, to which the whole system of weights and 
measures should be reduced, with divisions and subdi 
visions in the decimal ratio, corresponding to the uni 
formity already established in the coins of the United 
States. On the whole, he was inclined to a general 
reformation, with a view to make the denominations of 
weights and measures conform to those already intro 
duced into the currency of the country. The facility 
which such an improvement would establish in the vul 
gar arithmetic, would be soon and sensibly felt by the 
mass of the people ; who would thereby be enabled to 
compute for themselves, whatever they should have oc 
casion to buy, sell, or measure, which the present diffi 
cult and complicated ratios, for the most part, place be 
yond their computation. In the event of its being 
adopted, however, he recommended a gradual reduction 
of it to practice. A progressive introduction would 
lessen the inconveniences, which might attend too sud 
den a substitution, even of an easier, for a more diffi 
cult system. After a given term, for instance, it might 
begin in the custom houses, where the merchants would 
become familiarized to it. After a farther term, it 
might be introduced into all legal proceedings ; and 
merchants and traders in foreign commodities might be 
required to use it. After a still farther term, all other 
descriptions of persons might receive it into common 
use. Too long a postponement, on the other hand, 
would increase the difficulties of its reception, with the 
increase of our population. 

This report is a curious and learned document, valua 
ble to the statesman and philosopher ; though, for the 
same reasons, not calculated to interest the general 
reader. It was submitted to Congress on the 13th of 
July, 1790, and referred to a committee who reported in 
/avor of a general reformation, on the principles re 
commended by the author. But the subject was post- 


poned from session to session, for several years, without 
receiving a final determination ; and at length, became 
lost altogether in the crowd of more important matters. 
The idea of reducing to a single standard the discordant 
ratios of coins, weights and measures, has ever since, 
at different intervals, engaged the attention of learned 
statesmen in England, France, Spain and America ; but 
a fear of encountering the difficulties of a change of 
familiar denominations, with a natural attachment to 
established usage, has hitherto prevented the introduc 
tion of a general uniformity in the systems of either 

2. The report of the secretary of State on the cod 
and whale fisheries of the United States, is one of those 
ancient State papers which, unlike the innumerable mul 
titude that perish with the occasion, seem destined to be 
perpetual. The subject was referred to him by Con 
gress, on the 9th of August, 1790, in consequence of a 
representation from the legislature of Massachusetts, 
setting forth the embarrassments under which those 
great branches of their business labored, and soliciting 
the interference of the government in various ways. 

This sound and energetic report was submitted to 
Congress on the 4th of February, 1791. It was accept 
ed, published, and applauded by the great majority of the 
people. The policy so urgently recommended by Mr 
Jefferson, was adopted ; and its utility was soon demon 
strated, by the restoration to the United States, upon a 
prosperous and permanent footing, of one of their most 
important branches of domestic and maritime industry. 

3. The report of the secretary of State on commerce 
and navigation. This paper was prepared in pursuance 
of a resolution of the house of representatives, passed 
on the 23d of February, 1791, instructing him to report 
to Congress the nature and extent of the privileges and 
restrictions of the commercial intercourse of the United 
States with foreign nations, and the measures which he 



should think proper to be adopted for the improvement 
of their commerce and navigation. 

The administration of the foreign affairs of the repub 
lic devolving, ex officio, on the secretary of State, the 
principal of his labors emanate from that source. Be 
ing the organ of communication between the government 
and foreign nations, the preparing and communica 
ting instructions to our ministers of every grade at the 
different courts, and the answering those of foreign min 
isters of every grade resident in the United States, con 
stitute a perpetual routine of arduous and complicated 
duties. Perhaps there was never a period in our history, 
in which these duties were more onerous and multiplied, 
than during the years 1791, 92, and 93. The United 
States were at issue, on the most delicate points of con 
troversy, with England, France, and Spain ; and finally, 
the coalition of European despots against republican 
France, drove our government into the necessity of main 
taining a strict and impartial neutrality towards the bel 
ligerent parties the most difficult posture it was ever 
called on to assume. 

With Spain, difficulties had arisen of a serious char 
acter. They concerned chiefly the navigation of the 
Mississippi below our southern limit, the right to which 
was still withheld ; the settlement of boundaries between 
the two nations ; and the interference, on the part of 
Spain, with the tribes of Indians in our territories, in 
citing them to frequent and ferocious depredations on 
our citizens. 

On all these points the talents of the secretary of State 
were constantly exercised in communicating and enforc 
ing the opinions of the administration. On the subject 
of the Mississippi, his instructions to our minister at 
Madrid were rigorous and uncompromising. He insist 
ed that the United States had a right riot only to the un 
molested navigation of that river, to its mouth, but also to 
an entrepot near thereto, in the dominions of Spain, sub- 


ject to our jurisdiction exclusively, for the convenience 
and protection of our commerce. He grounded these 
rights upon the broad principle of the law of nature, 
that the inhabitants on both sides of a navigable river 
are entitled to the common use and enjoyment of it, to 
the ocean ; and that the right to use a thing compre 
hends a right to all the means necessary to its use. The 
peculiar energy and urgency of his official communica 
tions are in unison with the high tone of American feel 
ing which he carried into every situation. 

On the subject of the boundaries between the United 
States and Spain, and the incendiary interference of the 
latter with the Indians on our territories, the communi 
cations of Mr Jefferson gave a tone to the foreign ad 
ministration of. the government, distinguished alike for 
moderation and firmness. He uniformly pressed on 
our minister the importance of assuring the court of 
Spain, on every occasion, in respectful yet unequivocal 
terms, that the essential principles in dispute would nev 
er be relinquished preferring always a peaceful redress 
of grievances, yet fearless of war, if driven to that ex 
tremity. Such however was the obstinacy of Spain, and 
her jealousy of a rising power in the West, which was one 
day to obliterate her American possessions, that although 
deprecating the possibility of war, she skilfully par 
ried all attempts at negotiation, and secretly practised 
her wily arts with the Indians. This temporizing and 
inhuman policy at length drew forth from Mr Jeffer 
son a bold address to the court of Spain itself, declar 
ing the ultimate determination of the government, in lan 
guage equally resolute and conciliatory. 

4 We love and we value peace ; we know its blessings 
from experience ; unmeddling with the affairs of other 
nations, we had hoped that our distance and our dispo 
sitions, would have left us free, in the example and indul 
gence of peace with all the world. We had with sin 
cere and particular dispositions, courted and cultivated 



the friendship of Spain. Cherishing the same senti 
ments, we have chosen to ascribe the unfriendly insinu 
ations of the Spanish commissioners, in their intercourse 
with the government of the United States, to the peculiar 
character of the writers, and to remove the cause from 
them to their sovereign, in whose justice and love of 
peace we have confidence. If we are disappointed in 
this appeal, if we are to be forced into a contrary order 
of things, our mind is made up, we shall meet it with 
firmness. The necessity of our position will supersede 
all appeal to calculation now, as it has done heretofore. 
We confide in our own strength, without boasting of it : 
we respect that of others, without fearing it. If Spain 
chooses to consider our self defence against savage butch 
ery as a cause of war to her, we must meet her also in 
war, with regret, but without fear ; and we shall be hap 
pier to the last moment, to repair with her to the tribu 
nal of peace and reason. 

The controversy with Spain, on these several points, 
was continued with unabated ardor, while Mr Jefferson 
remained secretary of State. The rights in dispute 
were finally secured by treaty, on the principles con 
tended for by him, except that the right to an entrepot 
at New Orleans was limited to three years. The prin 
ciple of free bottoms, free goods, was also recognized ; 
and the practice of privateering was humanely restrain 
ed. These were favorite ideas with Mr Jefferson. The 
treaty with Spain was concluded on the 27th of Octo 
ber, 1795. 

In the midst of the contest with Spain, the secretary 
of State became involved in a diplomatic controversy 
with Mr Hammond, minister plenipotentiary of Great 
Britain to the United States. This controversy origin 
ated in the non-execution of the treaty of peace ; in 
fractions of which, in various particulars, had been mu 
tually charged, by each upon the other party, ever since 
the conclusion of the war. Mr Jefferson directed the 
attention of the British minister to the subject, in a point 
ed manner. He informed him that the British garrisons 


had not evacuated the western posts, in violation of an 
express stipulation to that effect in the seventh article, 
that the British officers had exercised jurisdiction over 
the country and inhabitants in the vicinity of these posts, 
that American citizens had been excluded from the navi 
gation of the lakes, and that, contrary to the same arti 
cle, a great number of negroes, the property of Ameri 
can citizens, had been carried away on the evacuation of 
New York. 

Mr Hammond replied, by admitting the alleged in 
fractions, but justifying them on the ground of retalia 
tion, the United States having previously, he declared, 
violated their engagements, by obstructing the payment 
of debts justly due to British creditors, and by refusing 
to make remuneration for repeated confiscations of Bri 
tish property, during and since the war. 

To this, Mr Jefferson rejoined, on the 29th of May, 
92, in a masterly communicatien of more than sixty 
pages octavo. He reviewed the whole ground of the 
controversy, from beginning to end, sustaining his for 
mer positions and overturning those of the British minis 
ter, by such arguments as drove his antagonist from the 
Afield. He showed that with respect to property confis 
cated by the individual States, the treaty merely stipu 
lated that Congress should recommend to the legislatures 
of the several States to provide for its restitution. That 
Congress had done all in their power, and all they were 
bound by the treaty to do ; that it was left with the 
States to comply or not, as they might think proper, 
with the recommendation of Congress, and that this was 
so understood by the British negotiators, and by the 
British ministry, at the time the treaty was concluded. 
He also claimed that the first infractions were on the 
part of Great Britain, by retaining the western posts, 
and by the deportation of negroes ; and that the delays 
and impediments which had taken place in the collection 
of "British debts, were justifiable on that account. 



Hammond never undertook an answer to this com 
munication. After more than a year had elapsed, with 
out hearing any thing from him, Mr Jefferson invited 
his attention to the subject, and requested an answer. 
But Hammond evaded the challenge, alleging as an ex 
cuse for his neglect, that he awaited instructions from 
his government. In this state the matter rested until it 
became merged in disputes of a more serious character, 
by the outbreaking of a general war in Europe, which 
changed the political relations of both continents. 

Against another pretension on the part of Great Bri 
tain, and one which ultimately conduced to the second 
war with that nation, Mr Jefferson had the honor of 
opposing the first formal resistance of our government. 
This was the impressment of seamen on board Ameri 
can ships, under color of their being British subjects. 
This custom was peculiar to England ; she had prac 
tised it towards all other nations, from time immemo 
rial, but with accumulated rigor towards the United 
States since their independence. She claimed the ab 
solute right of going on board American ships, with her 
press-gangs, and constraining into her service all sea 
men whatsoever, who could not produce upon the spot, 
written evidences of their citizenship. The consequence 
was that American citizens were frequently carried off, 
and subjected to multiplied cruelties, not only without 
evidence, but even against evidence. In opposition to 
this preposterous claim, the secretary of State proclaim 
ed the determined voice of the government, and autho 
rized a rigorous system of reprisal, unless the practice 
should be abandoned. He contended that American 
bottoms should be prima facie evidence that all on board 
were Americans, which would throw the burden of proof, 
where it ought to be, on those who set themselves up 
against natural right. Under date of June 11, 1792, 
he thus writes to our minister at London : 


1 We entirely reject the mode which was the subject 
of a conversation between Mr Morris and him, [British 
minister,] which was, that our seamen should always 
carry about them certificates of their citizenship. This 
is a condition never yet submitted to by any nation, one 
with which seamen would never have the precaution to 
comply : the casualties of their calling would expose them 
to the constant destruction or loss of this paper evidence, 
and thus, the British government would be armed with 
legal authority to impress the whole of our seamen. 
The simplest rule will be, that the vessel being Ameri 
can, shall be evidence that the seamen on board her are 
such. If they apprehend that our vessels might thus 
become asylums for the fugitives of their own nation 
from impressment, the number of men to be protected by 
a vessel may be limited by her tonnage, and one or two 
officers only be permitted to enter the vessel in order to 
examine the numbers on board ; but no press-gang 
should be allowed ever to go on board an American ves 
sel, till after it shall be found that there are more than 
their stipulated. number on board, nor till after the mas 
ter shall have refused to deliver the supernumeraries (to 
be named by himself) to the press-officer who has come 
on board for that purpose ; and, even then, the Ameri 
can consul should be called in. In order to urge a set 
tlement of this point, before a new occasion may arise, 
it may not be amiss to draw their attention to the pecu 
liar irritation excited on the last occasion, and the diffi 
culty of avoiding our making immediate reprisals on 
their seamen here. 

On the subject of impressment Mr Jefferson s private 
opinion was, that American bottoms should be conclusive 
evidence that all on board were American citizens, in 
asmuch as the right of expatriation was a natural right, 
the free enjoyment of which no nation had the authority 
to molest, with respect to any other nation, unless by 
special and mutual agreement. But the administration 
were not prepared, at this time, to carry their resistance 
to the princjple, farther than was necessary for the pro- 

282 LIFE OF 

tection of their own seamen, without affording an 
asylum for others. 

The Holy Alliance of European despots against the 
republic of France, in 1793, placed the United States 
in a new position. The situation of a neutral nation is 
always delicate arid embarrassing ; but peculiarly so, 
when it is connected with the belligerent parties by ex 
tensive commercial relations, and when its subjects are 
divided by powerful political partialities and antipathies 
towards the powers at war. This was precisely the 
situation of the United States. 

The frenzy of the popular excitement in favor of 
France, was greatly increased by the intemperate cha 
racter of the minister of the French republic, Mr Genet. 
No sooner had this gentleman arrived in the United 
States, than, presuming on the state of public feeling, 
he began the design of forcing them to become a party 
to the war, by an extraordinary course of proceedings. 
He landed on the 8th of April, 1793, at Charleston, a 
port so remote from his points, both of departure and 
destination, as to excite attention ; and instead of pro 
ceeding directly to Philadelphia and presenting his cre 
dentials to the president, he remained in Charleston five 
or six weeks. While there, he was constantly engaged 
in authorizing the fitting and arming vessels in that port, 
enlisting men, foreigners and citizens, and giving them 
commissions to cruise and commit hostilities on the na 
tions at war with France. These vessels were taking 
and bringing prizes into our ports ; and the consuls of 
France, by his direction, were assuming to hold courts 
of admiralty on them, to try, condemn, and authorize 
their sale as legal prize. All this was done and doing 
before Mr Genet had been received and accredited by 
the president, without his consent or consultation, in de 
fiance of an express proclamation by the government, 
and in palpable contravention of the law of nations. 
These proceedings immediately called forth from the 


British minister several memorials thereon ; to which 
Mr Jefferson replied, on the 15th of May, condemning 
in the highest degree, the transactions complained 
against, and assuring the British minister that the United 
States would take the most effectual measures to pre 
vent their repetition. Mr Genet reached Philadelphia 
the next day. His progress through the country had 
been triumphal ; and he was received at Philadelphia 
amidst the plaudits and acclamations of the people. 
On his presentation to the president, he assured him 
that on account of the remote situation of the United 
States and other circumstances, France did not expect 
them to become a party in the war, but wished to see 
them preserve their prosperity and happiness in peace. 
But in a conference with the secretary of State, soon 
after his reception, he alluded to his proceedings at 
Charleston, and expressed a hope that the president had 
not absolutely decided against them. He added, that 
he would write the secretary a note, justifying his con 
duct under the treaty between the two nations ; but if 
the president should finally determine otherwise, he must 
submit, as his instructions enjoined him to do what was 
agreeable to the Americans. 

In pursuance of his intimation, he addressed a letter 
to the secretary of State, on the 27th of May, in which 
it appeared that he was far from possessing a disposi 
tion to acquiesce in the decisions of the government. 
This letter laid the foundation of a correspondence, 
which is confessedly unparalleled in the annals of di 
plomacy. The communications of Mr Jefferson present 
a valuable commentary on the legal interpretation of 
treaties. They occupy a volume of the American State- 
papers ; and a mere outline of them, would exceed the 
limits prescribed to the present work. 

The communications of Genet, on the other hand, were 
a tissue of inflammatory declamation. To the reason 
ings of Mr Jefferson on the obligations of the United 

284 LIFE OP 

States to observe an impartial neutrality towards all 
the belligerent parties, he applied the epithet of diplo 
matic subtilties. 5 And when he sustained the princi 
ples advanced by him, by quotations from Vattel and 
other approved jurisconsults, Genet called them * the 
aphorisms of Vattel, <fcc. You oppose, said he, to 
my complaints, to my just reclamations, upon the foot 
ing of right, the private or public opinion of the presi 
dent of the United States ; and this a3gis not appearing 
to you sufficient, you bring forward aphorisms of Vattel, 
to justify or excuse infractions committed on positive 
treaties. And he added, do not punish the brave in 
dividuals of your nation who arrange themselves under 
our banner, knowing perfectly well, that no law of the 
United States gives to the government the sole power of 
arresting their zeal, by acts of rigor. The Americans 
are free : they are not attached to the glebe, like the 
slaves of Russia ; they may change their situation when 
they please, and by accepting at this moment the suc 
cor of their arms in the habit of trampling on tyrants, 
we do not commit the plagiat of which you speak. 
The true robbery, the true crime would be to enchain 
the courage of these good citizens, of these sincere 
friends of the best of causes. At other times he would 
address himself to the political feelings of Mr Jefferson 
himself, whom he had been induced to consider his per 
sonal friend, and who, he said, had initiated him into 
mysteries which had inflamed his hatred against all 
those who aspire to an absolute power. 

During the same time also Mr Genet was indus 
triously engaged in disseminating seditious addresses 
among the people, and attempting, by every means in 
his power, to inflame their passions, and induce them 
to arise in arms against the enemies of France. 

Finally, after a controversy of several months, in the 
whole course of which, the mingled effusions of arro 
gance and intemperance were opposed to a moderation 


and forbearance which could not be betrayed into a 
single undignified expression, the American government 
came to the determination of desiring the recall of Mr 
Genet. This delicate duty was executed by Mr Jeffer 
son, and in a manner which has doubtless united more 
opinions in its favor than any other diplomatic per 
formance on record. On the 16th of August, 1793, he 
addressed a letter to Mr Morris, the minister of the 
United States at Paris, containing an epitome of the 
correspondence on both sides, assigning the reasons 
which rendered the recall of Mr Genet necessary, and 
directing the case to be immediately laid before the 
French government. 

It were vain to attempt a satisfactory analysis of 
this letter. To a full and dispassionate review of the 
transactions of Mr Genet, and an unanswerable vin 
dication of the principles upon which the administra 
tion had conducted itself in the controversy, assurances 
were added of an unwavering attachment to France, 
expressed in such terms as to impress every reader 
with their sincerity. The concluding paragraphs are 
too remarkable not to require an insertion. 

After introducing a series of quotations from Mr 
Genet s correspondence, which he deemed too offensive 
to be translated into English, or to merit a commen 
tary, the author proceeded in the following dignified 
strain : 

4 We draw a veil over the sensations which these ex 
pressions excite. No words can render them ; but they 
will not escape the sensibility of a friendly and mag 
nanimous nation, who will do us justice. We see in 
them neither the portrait of ourselves, nor the pencil of 
our friends ; but an attempt to embroil both ; to add 
still another nation to the enemies of his country, and 
to draw on both a reproach, which it is hoped will never 
stain the history of either. The written proofs, of 



which Mr Genet was himself the bearer, were too un 
equivocal to leave a doubt that the French nation are 
constant in their friendship to us. The resolves of their 
national convention, the letters of their executive coun 
cil attest this truth, in terms which render it necessary 
to seek in some other hypothesis, the solution of Mr 
Genet s machinations against our peace and friendship. 
1 Conscious, on our part, of the same friendly and sin 
cere dispositions, we can with truth affirm, both for our 
nation and government, that we have never omitted a 
reasonable occasion of manifesting them. For I will 
not consider as of that character, opportunities of sally 
ing forth from our ports to way-lay, rob, and murder 
defenceless merchants and others, who have done us no 
injury, and who were coming to trade with us in the con 
fidence of our peace and amity. The violation of all 
the laws of order and morality which bind mankind to 
gether, would be an unacceptable offering to a just na 
tion. Recurring then only to recent things, after so 
afflicting a libel, we recollect with satisfaction, that in 
the course of two years, by unceasing exertions, we paid 
up seven years arrearages and instalments of our debt 
to France, which the inefficiency of our first form of 
government had suffered to be accumulating: that press 
ing on still to the entire fulfilment of our engagements, 
we have facilitated to Mr Genet the effect of the instal 
ments of the present year, to enable him to send relief 
to his fellow citizens in France, threatened with famine : 
that in the first moment of the insurrection which threat 
ened the colony of St Domingo, we stepped forward to 
their relief with arms and money, taking freely on our 
selves the risk of an unauthorized aid, when delay would 
have been denial : that we have received, according to 
our best abilities, the wretched fugitives from the catas 
trophe of the principal town of that colony, who, escap 
ing from the swords and flames of civil war, threw them 
selves on us naked and houseless, without food or friends, 
money or other means, their faculties lost and absorbed 
in the depth of their distresses : that the exclusive ad 
mission to sell here the prizes made by France on her 
enemies, in the present war, though unstipulated in our 
treaties, and unfounded in her own practice or in that 


of other nations, as we believe ; the spirit manifested by 
the late grand jury in their proceedings against those 
who had aided the enemies of France with arms and 
implements of war ; the expressions of attachment to 
his nation, with which Mr Genet was welcomed on his 
arrival and journey from South to North, and our long 
forbearance under his gross usurpations and outrages of 
the laws and authority of our country, do not bespeak 
the partialities intimated in his letters. And for these 
things he rewards us by endeavors to excite discord and 
distrust between our citizens and those whom they have 
entrusted with their government, between the different 
branches of our government, between our nation and 
his. But none of these things, we hope, will be found 
in his power. That friendship which dictates to us to 
bear with his conduct yet a while, lest the interests of 
his nation here should suffer injury, will hasten them to 
replace an agent, whose dispositions are such a misrepre 
sentation of theirs, and whose continuance here is incon 
sistent with order, peace, respect, and that friendly cor 
respondence which we hope will ever subsist between the 
two nations. His government will see too that the case 
is pressing. That it is impossible for two sovereign and 
independent authorities to be going on within our terri 
tory at the same time without collision. They will fore 
see that if Mr Genet perseveres in his proceedings, the 
consequences would be so hazardous to us, the example 
so humiliating and pernicious, that we may be forced 
even to suspend his functions before a successor can ar 
rive to continue them. If our citizens have not already 
been shedding each other s blood, it is not owing to the 
moderation of Mr Genet, but to the forbearance of the 

4 Lay the case then immediately before his govern 
ment. Accompany it with assurances, which cannot be 
stronger than true, that our friendship for the nation is 
constant and unabating; that faithful to our treaties, we 
have fulfilled them in every point to the best of our un 
derstanding ; that if in any thing, however, we have con 
strued them amiss, we are ready to enter into candid ex 
planations, and to do whatever we can be convinced is 
right ; that in opposing the extravagances of an agent, 
whose character they seem not sufficiently to have known, 

288 LIFE OF 

we have been urged by motives of duty to ourselves and 
justice to others, which cannot but be approved by those 
who are just themselves ; and finally, that after inde 
pendence and self-government, there is nothing we more 
sincerely wish than perpetual friendship with them. 

This appeal to the justice and magnanimity of France, 
was successful. Genet was recalled, and his place sup 
plied by Mr Fauchet, who arrived in the United States 
in February, 1794. 

On the last day of December, 1793, Mr Jefferson re 
signed the office of secretary of State, and retired from 
political life. This was not a sudden resolution on his 
part ; nor unexpected to his country. The political dis 
agreement between himself and the secretary of the 
treasury, added to his general disinclination to office, was 
the cause of his retirement. This disagreement origina 
ting in a fundamental difference of opinion, and aggra 
vated by subsequent collisions in the cabinet, was reflect 
ed back upon the people, and aggravated in turn, the 
agitations and animosities between the republicans and 
federalists, of which they were respectively the leaders. 

Having discovered in a letter from the president, while 
on a journey to the south, that he intended to resign the 
administration at the end of his first term, he decided 
on making that the date of his own retirement. This 
resolution was formed so early as April, 1791 ; and first 
communicated to the president in February, 1792. The 
private conversations held between these two great pub 
lic servants, at different periods during their official con 
nection, attest the sincerity of their attachment to each 
other, and the fervor of their devotion to the country. 
While both were sighing for retirement, each endeavored 
to dissuade the other from it, as an irreparable public 



AFTER five and twenty years continual employment in 
the public service, with every wish of personal ambition 
more than gratified, Mr Jefferson returned with great 
satisfaction to that mode of life which had always been 
congenial to him, and from which he was resolved never 
again to be diverted. In answer to a letter of the secre 
tary of State, soon after his resignation, containing an 
invitation of the president, pressing his return to the 
public councils, he wrote : No circumstances, my dear 
sir, will ever more tempt me to engage in any thing pub 
lic. I thought myself perfectly fixed in this determina 
tion when I left Philadelphia, but every day and hour 
since has added to its inflexibility. It is a great pleasure 
to me to retain the esteem and approbation of the presi 
dent, and this forms the only ground of any reluctance 
at being unable to comply with every wish of his. Pray 
convey these sentiments and a thousand more to him, 
which my situation does not permit me to go into. 

In the cultivation of his farm, with which he was at 
all times enamored, arid to which he was now intently 
devoted, Mr Jefferson was as philosophical and original 
as in every other department of business. On and around 
the mountain on which Monticello is situated, was an 
estate of about 5000 acres owned by him ; of which 
eleven hundred and twenty acres only were under culti 
vation. A ten years abandonment of his lands to the 
ravages of overseers, had brought on them a degree of 
deterioration, far beyond what he had expected ; and he 

290 LIFE OF 

determined upon the following plan for retrieving them 
from the wretched condition in which they were found. 
He divided all his lands under culture, into four farms, 
and every farm into seven fields of forty acres. Each 
farm therefore consisted of two hundred and eighty 
acres. He established a system of rotation in cropping, 
which embraced seven years ; and this was the reason 
for the division of each farm into seven fields. In the 
first of these years, wheat was cultivated ; in the second, 
Indian corn ; in the third, peas or potatoes ; in the fourth, 
vetches ; in the fifth, wheat ; and in the sixth and seventh, 
clover. Thus each of his fields yielded some produce 
every year, and the rotation of culture, while it prepar 
ed the soil for the succeeding crop, increased its produce. 
Each farm, under the direction of a particular steward 
or bailiff, was cultivated by four negroes, four negresses, 
four oxen, and four horses. On each field was con 
structed a barn sufficiently capacious to hold its produce 
in grain and forage. A few extracts from his private 
correspondence, at this period, will show how complete 
ly his mind was abstracted from the political world, and 
absorbed in the occupations and enjoyments of his rural 

To JAMES MADISON. I long to see you. I am pro 
ceeding in my agricultural plans with a slow but sure 
step. To get under full way will require four or five 
years. But patience and perseverance will accomplish 
it. My little essay in red clover, the last year, has had 
the most encouraging success. I sowed then about forty 
acres. I have sowed this year about one hundred and 
twenty, which the rain now falling comes very oppor 
tunely on. From one hundred and sixty to two hundred 
acres, will be my yearly sowing. The seed-box describ 
ed in the agricultural transactions of New-York, reduces 
the expense of seeding from six shillings to two shillings 
and three pence the acre, and does the business better 
than is possible to be done by the human hand. 

To W. B. GILES. I sincerely congratulate you on 


the great prosperities of our two first allies, the French 
and Dutch. If I could but see them now at peace with 
the rest of their continent, I should have little doubt of 
dining with Pichegru in London, next autumn ; for I be 
lieve I should be tempted to leave my clover for a while, 
and go and hail the dawn of liberty and republicanism 
in that island. I shall be rendered very happy by the 
visit you promise me. The only thing wanting to make 
me completely so, is the more frequent society of my 
friends. It is the more wanting, as I am become more 
firmly fixed to the glebe. If you visit me as a farmer, it 
must be as a condisciple ; for I am but a learner, an 
eager one indeed, but yet desperate, being too old to learn 
a new art. However, I am as much delighted and occu 
pied with it, as if I was the greatest adept. I shall talk 
with you about it from morning till night, and put you 
on very short allowance as to political aliment. Now 
and then a pious ejaculation for the French and Dutch 
republicans, returning with due dispatch to clover, pota 
toes, wheat, &c. 

To M. PAGE. It was not in my power to attend at 
Fredericksburg according to the kind invitation in your 
letter, and in that of Mr Ogilvie. The heat of the 
weather, the business of the farm, to which I have made 
myself necessary, forbade it ; and to give one round 
reason for all, mature sanus, I have laid up my Rosinante 
in his stall, before his unfitness for the road shall expose 
him faltering to the world. But why did not I answer 
you in time ? Because, in truth, I am encouraging my 
self to grow lazy, and I was sure you would ascribe the 
delay to any thing sooner than a want of affection or re 
spect to you, for this was not among the possible causes. 
In truth, if any thing could ever induce me to sleep 
another night out of my own house, it would have been 
your friendly invitation and my solicitude for the subject 
of it, the education of our youth. I do most anxiously 
wish to see the highest degrees of education given to the 
higher degrees of genius, and to all degrees of it, so 
much as may enable them to read and understand what 
is going on in the world, and to keep their part of it go 
ing on right : for nothing can keep it right but their own 
vigilant and distrustful superintendence. 

292 LIFE OF 

With the peaceful operations of agriculture, Mr Jef 
ferson combined another gratification to wit, the pur 
suit of science. In compliment to his uncommon pas 
sion for philosophy, and his exalted attainments in 
science, he was about this time appointed president of 
the American Philosophical Society, the oldest and 
most distinguished institution in the United States. This 
honor had been first conferred on Dr Franklin, and 
afterwards on Rittenhouse, at whose death Mr Jefferson 
was chosen. His sensibility to this mark of distinction 
was more profound than he had ever felt on any occa 
sion of political preferment. * The suffrage of a body, 
said he in reply, which comprehends whatever the 
American world has of distinction in philosophy and 
science in general, is the most flattering incident of my 
life, and that to which I am the most sensible. My 
satisfaction would be complete, were it not for the con 
sciousness that it is far beyond my titles. I feel no 
qualification for this distinguished post, but a sincere 
zeal for all the objects of our institution, and an ardent 
desire to see knowledge so disseminated through the 
mass of mankind, that it may, at length, reach even the 
extremes of society, beggars, and kings. 

Of this society he was the pride and ornament. He 
presided over it for a number of years with great effi 
ciency, elevating its character, and extending its opera 
tions, by those means which his enlarged acquaintance 
with science and the literary world enabled him to com 
mand. His constant attendance at its meetings, while 
he resided in Philadelphia, gave them an interest which 
had not been excited for a number of years. Science, 
under his auspices, received a fresh impulse, as will ap 
pear by consulting the Transactions of that period, which 
were enriched by many valuable contributions from him 

But it was impossible for Mr Jefferson utterly to ex 
tinguish that inbred republicanism for which he was 


so remarkable, or those anxieties for its preservation 
and purity, which weighed on him so heavily at times. 
He had left Philadelphia not without some inquietude 
for the future destinies of the government, yet with a 
confidence so strong as never permitted him to doubt the 
final result of the experiment. 

Early in the year 1795, the two great parties of the 
nation became firmly arrayed against each other, on the 
question of providing a successor to General Washing 
ton. Mr Adams was taken up by the federalists, and 
Mr Jefferson was undividedly designated as the republi 
can candidate. 

The contest was conducted with great asperity. In 
fierceness and turbulence of character, in the temper 
and dispositions of the respective parties, and in the 
principles which were put in issue, the contest so strong 
ly resembled those of which the present generation 
have been frequent eye-witnesses and actors, as to ren 
der a description unnecessary. The issue is well known. 
The struggle of the people against the party in power 
is always an unequal one ; and was lost on the present 
occasion. The majority, however, was inconsiderable. 
On counting the electoral votes in February, 1797, it 
appeared there were seventy-one for Mr Adams, and 
sixty-eight for Mr Jefferson. 

294 LIFE OF 


THE new administration, under John Adams, com 
menced on the 4th of March, 1797. 

Mr Jefferson arrived at the seat of government on the 
2d of March. Though there was no necessity for his 
attendance, he had determined to come on, from a prin 
ciple of respect to the public and the new president. 
He had taken the precaution, however, to manifest his 
disapprobation of the forms and ceremonies, establish 
ed at the first inauguration, by declining all participa 
tion in the homage of the occasion. As soon as he was 
certified by the public papers of the event of the elec 
tion, he addressed a letter to Mr Tazewell, senator of 
Virginia, expressing his particular desire to dispense 
with the formality of notification by a special messen 
ger. At the first election of president and vice presi 
dent, gentlemen of considerable distinction were depu 
ted to notify the parties chosen; and it was made an 
office of much dignity. But this expensive formality 
was as unnecessary as it was repugnant to the genius of 
our government ; and he was anxious that the prece 
dent should not be drawn into custom. He therefore 
authorized Mr Tazewell to request the senate, if not in 
compatible with their views of propriety, to discontinue 
the practice in relation to himself, and to adopt the 
channel of the post, as the least troublesome, the most 
rapid, and by the use of duplicates and triplicates, al 
ways capable of being rendered the most certain. He 


addressed another letter at the same time to Mr Madi 
son, requesting him to discountenance in his behalf, all 
parade of reception, induction, &c. 

There was another point, involving an important con 
stitutional principle, on which Mr Jefferson improved 
the occasion of his election to introduce a salutary re 
formation in the practice of the government. During 
the previous administration, the vice president was made 
a member of the cabinet, and occasionally participated 
in the executive consultations, equally with the mem 
bers of the cabinet proper. This practice he regarded 
as a combination of legislative with executive powers, 
which the constitution had wisely separated. He avail 
ed himself, therefore, of the first opening from a friend 
ly quarter, to announce his determination to consider 
the office of vice president as legitimately confined to 
legislative functions, and to sustain no part whatever 
in the executive consultations. In a letter to Mr Madi 
son, dated Monticello, January 22, 1797, he says : * My 
letters inform me that Mr Adams speaks of me with 
great friendship, and with satisfaction in the prospect of 
administering the government in concurrence with me. 
I am glad of the first information, because, though I 
saw that our ancient friendship was affected by a little 
leaven, produced partly by his constitution, partly by 
the contrivance of others, yet I never felt a diminution 
of confidence in his integrity, and retained a solid af 
fection for him. His principles of government I knew 
to be changed, but conscientiously changed. As to my 
participation in the administration, if by that he meant 
the executive cabinet, both duty and inclination will shut 
that door to me. As to duty, the] constitution will 
know me only as the member of a legislative body ; 
and its principle is, that of a separation of legislative, 
executive, and judiciary functions, except in cases speci 
fied. If this principle be not expressed in direct terms, 
yet it is clearly the spirit of the constitution, and it 

296 LIFE OF 

ought to be so commented and acted on by every friend 
to free government. 

In the first moments of the enthusiasm of the inaugu 
ration, Mr Adams v forgot party sentiments, and indi 
cated a disposition to harmonize with the republican 
body of his fellow citizens. He called upon Mr Jefferson 
on the 3d of March, and expressed great pleasure at find 
ing him alone, as he wished a free conversation with 
him. He entered immediately on an explanation of the 
situation of our affairs with France, and the danger of 
a rupture with that nation ; that he was impressed with 
the necessity of an immediate mission to the directory ; 
that it would have been the first wish of his heart to 
have got Mr Jefferson to go there, but that he supposed it 
was now out of the question. That he had determined 
on sending an embassy, which by its dignity should sa 
tisfy France, and by its selection from the three great 
divisions of the continent, should satisfy all parts of the 
United States ; in short, that he determined to join 
Madison and Gerry to Pinckney, and he wished Mr 
Jefferson to consult Madison in his behalf. He did so, 
but Mr Madison declined, as was expected. After that 
he never said a word to Mr Jefferson on the subject, nor 
ever consulted him as to any measures of the adminis 

From the warmth with which Mr Jefferson embarked 
in opposition to the administration, it might be inferred 
that he permitted his political feelings to influence him 
in the discharge of his official duties. But this was not 
the case. He presided over the senate with dignity, 
and, although it was composed for the most part of his 
political enemies, with an impartiality, which the rancor 
of the times never attempted to impeach. How atten 
tive he was to the duties of his station, and how accu 
rately he understood the rules of parliamentary order, 
is attested by his MANUAL, a work which he at this 


time published, and which has ever since been the guide 
of both houses of Congress. 

Soon after the election of Mr Adams, the political 
contest for his successor was renewed with increased ve 
hemence. Mr Jefferson was again, with one accord, 
selected as the republican candidate for the presidency, 
and Aaron Burr of New York, for the office of Vice 
President. With equal unanimity, John Adams, the in 
cumbent, and Charles C. Pinkney of South Carolina, 
were designated as the candidates of the federal party. 

It would be tedious to describe the opposition offered 
to Mr Jefferson. The press cast the strongest reflec 
tions upon his political principles, and in some instances 
the pulpit was made the organ of party. The strife 
which then raged was of a nature, the vehemence of 
which has seldom been equalled. Mr Jefferson was ac 
cused of having betrayed his native State into the hands 
of the enemy on two occasions while at the head of the 
government, by a cowardly abandonment of Richmond 
on the sudden invasion of Arnold, and subsequently, by 
an ignominious flight from Monticello on the approach 
of Tarlton, with circumstances of such panic and pre 
cipitation as to occasion a fall from his horse, and the 
dislocation of his shoulder. He was charged with being 
the libeller of Washington, and the retainer of mer 
cenary libellers to blast the reputation of the father of 
his country. He was accused of implacable hostility to 
the constitution, of employing foreign scribblers to write 
it down ; and of aiming at the annihilation of all law, 
order, and government, and the introduction of general 
anarchy and licentiousness!. He was characterized as 
an atheist, and the patron of French atheists, whom he 
encouraged to migrate to this country ; as a demagogue 
and disorganize!*, industriously sapping the foundations 
of religion and virtue, and paving the way for the es 
tablishment of a legalized system of infidelity and liber 
tinism. Decency would revolt were we to pursue the 

298 LIFE OP 

catalogue into that region of invective, which was em 
ployed to vilify his private character, and which abounded 
in fabrications that have been the theme of infinite rid 
icule, in prose and verse. 

While the madness of party was thus raging, and at 
tempting to despoil him of his reputation, Mr Jefferson 
remained a passive spectator of the scene. Supported 
by a consciousness of his innocence, he surveyed, with 
composure, the tempest of detraction which was howl 
ing around him. His confidence in the justice of public 
opinion was stronger than his sensibility under its tem 
porary reproaches, and he quietly submitted to the licen 
tiousness of the press, as an alloy which was inseparable 
from the boon of its freedom. Besides, he felt an ani 
mating pride in being made the subject of the first great 
experiment in the world, which was to test the sound- 
] ness of his favorite principle, that freedom of discus- 
l sion, unaided by power, was sufficient for the protection 
and propagation of truth. Although frequently solicited 
by his friends, he never would descend to a newspaper 
refutation of calumny ; and he never, in any instance, 
appealed to the retribution of the laws. * 1 know, he 
wrote to a friend in Connecticut, that I might have 
filled the courts of the United States with actions for 
these slanders, and have ruined, perhaps, many persons 
who are not innocent. But this would be no equivalent 
for the loss of character. I leave them, therefore, to the 
reproof of their own consciences. If these do not con 
demn them, there will yet come a day when the false 
witness will meet a judge who has not slept over his 
slanders. If the Rev. Cotton Mather Smith, of Shena, 
believed this as firmly as I do, he would surely never 
have affirmed that I had obtained my property by fraud 
and robbery ; that in one instance I had defrauded and 
robbed a widow and fatherless children of an estate to 
\ which I was executor, of ten thousand pounds sterling, 
by keeping the property and paying them in money at 


the nominal rate, when it was worth no more than forty 
to one ; and that all this could be proved. Every tittle 
of this grave denunciation was founded in falsehood. 
Mr Jefferson was an executor but in two instances, which 
happened about the beginning of the revolution ; and he 
never meddled in either executorship. In one of the 
cases only were there a widow and children. She was 
his sister, and retained and managed the estate exclu 
sively in her own hands. In the other case he was co 
parcener, and only received on division the equal por 
tion allotted him. Again, his property was all patrimo 
nial, except about seven or eight hundred pounds worth, 
purchased by himself and paid for, not to widows and 
orphans, but to the gentleman from whom he purchased. 
The charges against Mr Jefferson were indeed so auda 
cious, and persevered in with such assurance, as to ex 
cite the solicitude of his friends in different sections of 
the union ; and they addressed him frequent letters of 
inquiry on the subject. These he invariably answered 
with frankness and liberality ; but he annexed to every 
answer a restraint against its publication. In a letter of 
this kind to Samuel Smith of Maryland, he concludes : 

These observations will show you how far the impu 
tations in the paragraph sent me approach the truth. 
Yet they are not intended for a newspaper. At a very 
early period of my life, I determined never to put a sen 
tence into any newspaper. I have religiously adhered 
to the resolution through my life, and have great reason 
to be contented with it. Were I to undertake to answer 
the calumnies of the newspapers, it would be more than 
all my own time and that of twenty aids could effect. 
For while I should be answering one, twenty new ones 
would be invented. I have thought it better to trust to 
the justice of my countrymen, that they would judge me 
by what they see of my conduct on the stage where they 
have placed me, and what they knew of me before the 
epoch, since which a particular party has supposed it 
might answer some view of theirs to vilify me in the 

300 LIFE OP 

public eye. Some, I know, will not reflect how apocry 
phal is the testimony of enemies so palpably betraying 
the views with which they give it. But this is an injury 
to which duty requires every one to submit whom the 
public think proper to call into its councils. I thank 
you, my dear Sir, for the interest you have for me on 
this occasion. Though I have made up my mind not to 
suffer calumny to disturb my tranquillity, yet I retain all 
my sensibilities for the approbation of the good and just. 
That is, indeed, the chief consolation for the hatred of 
so many, who, without the least personal knowledge, 
and on the evidence of mercenary calumniators alone, 
cover me with their implacable hatred. The only return 
I will ever make them, will be to do them all the good I 
can, in spite of their teeth. 

Mr Jefferson was successful over his competitor by 
a vote of seventy-three to sixty-five, in the electoral 
colleges. The States of New York, Virginia, South 
Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky and Tennessee, were 
unanimous for him. The New England States, with 
Delaware and New Jersey, were unanimous for Mr 
Adams. Pennsylvania and North Carolina, acting by 
districts, gave a majority of votes to Mr Jefferson ; and 
Maryland was equally divided between the two candi 

But owing to a defect in the constitution, or an inat 
tention to its provisions, an unexpected contingency 
arose, which threatened to reverse the will of the nation, 
and to place in the executive chair a man who, it was 
notorious, had not received a solitary vote for that sta 
tion. Mr Jefferson was elected president, and Aaron 
Burr vice president, by an equal number of votes ; and 
as the constitution required no specification of the office 
for which each respectively was designed, but simply 
confined the choice to the person having the highest 
number of votes, the consequence was that neither had 
the majority required by law. In this dilemma, the 
election devolved on the house of representatives, and 


produced storms of an unprecedented character. The 
federalists seized on the occasion, to favor their own pecu 
liar political principles. They held a caucus, and resolved 
on the alternative, either to elect Burr in the room of 
Jefferson, or, by preventing a choice altogether, to 
create an interregnum. In the latter event, they agreed 
to pass an act of Congress, devolving the government 
on a president, pro tern, of the senate, who would per 
haps have been a person of their choice. 

On the llth of February, the house proceeded in the 
manner prescribed by the constitution to elect a presi 
dent of the United States. The representatives were 
required to vote by States, instead of by persons. On 
opening the ballots it appeared that there were eight 
States for Mr Jefferson, six for colonel Burr, and two 
divided ; consequently there was no choice. The pro 
cess was repeated, and the same result was indicated, 
through FIVE successive days and nights, and THIRTY- 
FIVE ballotings. 

During this long suspense, the decision depended on 
a single vote ! Either one of the federalists from the 
divided States, Vermont and Maryland, coming over to 
the republican side, would have made a ninth State, 
and decided the election in favor of Mr Jefferson. But 
the opposition appeared invincible in the resolution to 
have a president of their own choice. 

Mr N. a representative from Maryland, had been for 
some weeks confined to his bed, and was so ill that his 
life was considered in danger. Ill as he was, he insisted 
on being carried to the hall of representatives, in order 
to give his vote. The physicians forbade such a pro 
ceeding ; he insisted, and they appealed to his wife, 
telling her that such a removal, and the consequent ex 
citement, might prove fatal to his life. "Be it so, then," 
said she, " if my husband must die, let it be at the post 
of duty ; no weakness of mine shall oppose his noble 
resolution." How little did these physicians expect, 



when they appealed to the influence of one of the fond 
est and most devoted of wives, this courage. Of course 
they withdrew their opposition ; the patient was car 
ried, in a litter, to the capitol, where a bed was pre 
pared for him in an ante-room adjoining the senate 
chamber, followed by his wife, where, during the four 
or five days and nights of balloting, she remained by 
his side ; supporting the strength of the feeble invalid, 
who with difficulty traced the name of Jefferson each 
time the ballot box was handed to him. Such was the 
spirit of that day the spirit of that party ! 

Finally, on the thirty-sixth ballot the opposition gave 
way, apparently from exhaustion. Mr Morris of Ver 
mont withdrew, which enabled his only colleague, Lyon, 
to give the vote of that State to Mr Jefferson. The four 
federalists from Maryland, who had hitherto supported 
Burr, voted blanks, which made the positive ticket of 
their colleagues the vote of that State. South Carolina 
and Delaware, both represented by federalists voted 
blanks. So there were on the last ballot, ten States for 
Mr Jefferson, four for colonel Burr, and two blanks.* 
The result, on being proclaimed, was greeted with ap 
plause from the galleries, which were immediately or 
dered by the speaker to be cleared. Mr Jefferson did 
not receive a federal, nor colonel Burr a democratic 
vote. The latter became, of course, vice president ; but 
his apostacy separated him irretrievably from the con 
fidence of the republicans, while it demonstrated his 
fitness for those treasonable purposes of ambition which 
he subsequently manifested. 

* On the last ballot, Vermont, New York, New Jersey, Pennsyl 
vania, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky and 
Tennessee, voted for Mr Jefferson. New Hampshire, Massachu 
setts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, for colonel Burr. Delaware 
and South Carolina, voted blanks. 



ON the fourth of March, 1801, Mr Jefferson was in 
ducted into office. The crowd of strangers who had 
thronged the city during the previous period of agitation, 
had disappeared, on the understanding that it was the 
pleasure of the president to be made the subject of no 
homage or ceremony. The city of Washington had been 
occupied, as the seat of government, but a few months 
only ; the number of its inhabitants, at this time, did not 
exceed that of a small village ; the individuals composing 
the late administration had taken their departure with 
the ex-president, early on the fourth of March ; and 
now, divested of half its migratory population, the infant 
metropolis presented a solitary appearance. The sim 
plicity of the scene, and of the ceremony of inaugura 
tion, is described by a Washington reminiscent : The 
sun shone bright on that morning. The senate was con 
vened. Those members of the republican party that re 
mained at the seat of government, the judges of the su 
preme court, some citizens, and persons from the neigh 
boring country, and about a dozen ladies, made up the as 
sembly in the senate chamber, who were collected to wit 
ness the ceremony of the president s inauguration. Mr 
Jefferson had not yet arrived. He was seen walking 
from his lodgings, which were not far distant, attended 
by five or six gentlemen, who were his fellow lodgers. 
Soon afterwards he entered, accompanied by a commit 
tee of the senate, and bowing to the senate, who arose 
to receive him, he approached a table on which the bible 

304 LIFE OF 

lay,and took the oath which was administered to him by the 
chief justice. He was then conducted, by the president 
of the senate, to his chair, which stood on a platform 
raised some steps above the floor ; after the pause of a 
moment or two he arose and delivered that beautiful in 
augural address which has since become so popular and 
celebrated, with a clear, distinct voice, in a firm and 
modest manner. On leaving the chair he was surround 
ed by friends who pressed forward with cordial and eager 
congratulations. The new president walked home with 
two or three of the gentlemen who lodged in the same 
house. At dinner he took his accustomed place at the 
bottom of the table, his new station not eliciting from his 
democratic friends any new attention or courtesy. A 
gentleman from Baltimore, an invited guest, who acci 
dentally sat next to him, asked permission to wish him 
joy, lt I would advise you," answered Mr Jefferson, smil 
ing, " to follow my example on nuptial occasions, when 
I always tell the bridegroom I will wait till the end of 
the year before offering my congratulations." And this 
was the only and solitary instance of any notice taken of 
the event of the morning. 

In the short compass in which the inaugural address 
of Mr Jefferson is compressed, the essential principles 
of a free government are stated, with the measures best 
calculated for their attainment and security, and an am 
ple refutation of adverse principles. 

Nor was it intended as an ostentatious display of his 
political sentiments. The principles advanced in it were 
subsequently reduced to practice. 

James Madison was appointed secretary of State ; Al 
bert Gallatin, secretary of the Treasury ; General Dear 
born, secretary of War; Robert Smith, secretary of the 
Navy ; and Levi Lincoln, attorney general. Agreeably 
to the example set by himself, the vice president was not 
invited to take any part in the executive consultations. 
He addressed a circular to the heads of departments es- 


tablishing the mode and degree of communication be 
tween them and the president. All letters of business 
addressed to himself, were referred by him to the proper 
department to be acted upon. Those addressed to the 
secretaries, with those referred to them, were all com 
municated to the president, whether an answer was re 
quired or not ; in the latter case simply for his informa 
tion. If an answer was requisite, the secretary of the 
department communicated the letter and his proposed 
answer. If approved, they were simply sent back after 
perusal; if not, they were returned with an informal 
note suggesting an alteration or query. If any doubt of 
importance arose, he reserved it for conference. 

At the threshold of his administration, Mr Jefferson 
was met by difficulties which called into requisition all 
the firmness of his character. He found the principal 
offices of the government, and most of the subordinate 
ones, in the hands of his political opponents. This state 
of things required prompter correctives than the tardy 
effects of death and resignation. On him, therefore, for 
the first time, devolved the disagreeable enterprize of ef 
fecting this change. The general principles of action 
which he sketched for his guide on this occasion, were 
the following: 1st, All appointments to civil office, du 
ring pleasure, made after the event of the election was 
certainly known to Mr Adams, were considered as nulli 
ties. He did not view the persons appointed as even 
candidates for the office, but replaced others without no 
ticing or notifying them. 2d, Officers who had been 
guilty of official mal-conduct were proper subjects of re 
moval. 3d, Good men, to whom there was no objection 
but a difference of political principle, practised n so 
far only as the right of a private citizen would justify, 
were not proper subjects of removal, except in the case 
of attorneys and marshals. The courts being so decid 
edly federal, it was thought that those offices, being the 
doors of entrance, should be exercised by republican cit 
izens, as a shield to the republican majority of the na- 

306 LIFE OF 

tion. 4th, Incumbents who had prostituted their offices 
to the oppression of their fellow citizens, ought, in justice 
to those citizens, to be removed, and as examples to de 
ter others from like abuses. 

To these means of introducing the intended change, 
was added one other in the course of his administration 
to wit, removal for electioneering activity, or open and 
industrious opposition to the principles of the govern 
ment. Every officer of the government, said he, may 
vote at elections according to his own conscience ; but 
we should betray the cause committed to our care, were 
we to permit the influence of official patronage to be 
used to overthrow that cause. In all new appointments, 
the president confined his choice to republicans, or re 
publican federalists. 

The change in the public offices was the first measure 
of importance which gave a character of originality to 
the administration. Various abuses existed, dependent 
on executive indulgence, which soon called into action 
the reforming hand of the president. In a letter of the 
president to Nathaniel Macon, member of Congress from 
North Carolina, in May, 1801, it is curious to notice 
the following laconic statement of the progress and in 
tended course of reform : 

Levees are done away. 

4 The first communication to the next Congress will 
be, like [all subsequent ones, by message, to which no 
answer will be expected. 

* The diplomatic establishment in Europe will be re 
duced to three ministers. 

The compensations to collectors depend on you, and 
not on me. 

1 The army is undergoing a chaste reformation. 

1 The navy will be reduced to the legal establishment 
by the last of this month. 

* Agencies in every department will be revised. 

We shall push you to the uttermost in economizing. 
A very early recommendation had been given to the 


Post Master General to employ no printer, foreigner, or 
revolutionary tory, in any of his offices. This depart 
ment is still untouched. 

8 The arrival of Mr Gallatin, yesterday, completed the 
organization of our administration. 

During the short interval of time between his inaugu 
ration and the meeting of the first Congress, the atten 
tion of the president was occupied in maturing his plans 
for republicanizing the government ; and in carrying 
them into execution, in all cases where he possessed the 
power independently of the legislature. The courtly 
custom of levees, with the train of attendant forms and 
ceremonies, had its origin with the government. Gen 
eral Washington resisted the importunities to introduce 
them, for three weeks after his induction into office. At 
last he yielded, and Colonel Humphreys, a gentleman 
of great parade, was charged with the arrangement of 
ceremonies on the first occasion. Accordingly an ante 
chamber and presence-room were provided ; and when 
the company who were to pay their court, had assem 
bled, the president advanced, preceded by Humphreys. 
After passing through the ante-chamber, the door of the 
inner room was thrown open, and Humphreys entered 
first, calling out with a loud voice, * The president of 
the United States. The president was so much discon 
certed, that he never recovered from it during the whole 
time of the levee. After the company had retired, he 
said to Humphreys, Well, you have taken me in once, 
but by you shall never take me in a second time. He 
never allowed the same form to be repeated, but had the 
company introduced as they entered the room, where he 
stood to receive them. The levees were continued un 
der Mr Adams. Repeated at short intervals, and ac 
companied, as they were, by a general course of enter 
tainment, they were unnecessarily expensive and ob 
structive of business. Mr Jefferson discontinued them. 
He had but two public days for the reception of compa- 

308 LIFE OP 

ny the fourth of July and first of January. On these 
occasions, the doors of his house were thrown open, and 
the most liberal hospitality provided for the entertain 
ment of visitors of every grade without distinction. 

So much for the demolition of forms. With these a 
system of substantial reformation was vigorously prose 
cuted by the president. The introduction of economy 
in the public expenditures was the cardinal principle of 
this system. To diminish the number and weight of 
public burthens, and establish a frugal system of gov 
ernment, which should not take from the mouth of labor 
the bread it had earned. To this end, the army and 
navy were reduced into republican peace establishments ; 
or rather to the ultimate point of reduction, confided to 
executive discretion. Farther than this, he could not 
go without the concurrence of the legislature. The 
amount of force, including regulars and militia, which 
the several acts of the preceding administration had au 
thorized the president to raise, was considerably over 
100,000 men. Mr Jefferson reduced the army to four 
regiments of infantry, two regiments of artillerists and 
engineers, and two troops of light dragoons. The next 
year, by the consent of the legislature, he reduced it to 
two regiments of infantry, one regiment of artillerists, 
and a corps of engineers, or to about three thousand men. 

He visited in person each of the departments, and 
obtained a catalogue of the officers employed in each, 
with a statement of their wages and amount of duties. 
Those under his own immediate charge, were subjected 
to the same scrutiny. Thence he extended his enquiries 
over the whole territory of the republic, and compre 
hended in the revision all those, who under any species 
of public employment, drew money from the treasury. 
This done, he immediately commenced the reduction of 
all such offices as he deemed unnecessary, whose tenure 
depended on executive discretion. The inspectors of 
the internal revenue were discontinued in a mass. They 


comprised a large body of treasury men, dispersed 
over the country. Various other agencies, created by 
executive authority, on salaries fixed by the same au 
thority, were deemed superfluous. These were all sup 
pressed. The diplomatic establishment was reduced to 
three ministers, all that the public interests required 
namely, to England, France, and Spain. He called in 
foreign ministers who had been absent eleven, and even 
seventeen years ; and established the rule which he had 
formerly recommended to General Washington, by whom 
it was approved that no person should be continued 
on foreign mission beyond a term of six, seven or eight 
years. But the great mass of the public offices, being 
established by law, required the concurrence of the leg 
islature to discontinue them. 

The President formed the design of introducing some 
wholesome improvements in the established code of inter 
national intercourse, by engaging in concurrence and 
peaceable co-operation, a coalition of the most liberal 
powers of Europe. These improvements respected the 
rights of neutral nations, and were original conceptions 
with himself and Dr Franklin. He desired to see the 
established law of nations abolished, which authorized 
the taking the goods of an enemy from the ship of a 
friend ; and to have substituted in its place, by special 
compacts, the more rational and convenient rule, that 
free ships should make free goods. The vexatious ef 
fects of the former principle upon neutral nations peace 
ably pursuing their commerce, and its tendency to em 
broil them with the powers involved in war, were suffi 
cient reasons for its universal abandonment ; while the 
operation of the latter principle, leaving the nations at 
peace to enjoy the common rights of the ocean unmo 
lested, was more favorable to the interests of commerce, 
and lessened the occasions and the vexations of war. Be 
sides, the principle of free bottoms," free goods, he con 
tended, was the genuine dictate of national morality. 

310 LIFE OF 

and the converse, which had unfortunately obtained, a 
corruption originally introduced by accident between 
States* then predominating upon the ocean, and after 
wards adopted ft*om the mere force of example, by oth- 
: er nations, as they successively appeared upon the the 
atre of general cemmerce. 

The president desired to see this improvement so 
far carried out as to abolish the pernicious distinction of 
contraband of war, in the articles of neutral commerce. 
He regarded the practice of entering the ship of a friend 
to search and seize what was called contraband of war, 
as a violation of natural right, and extremely liable to 

War between two nations, says he, * cannot di 
minish the rights of the rest of the world remaining at 
peace. The doctrine that the rights of nations remain 
ing quietly in the exercise of moral and social duties, 
are to give way to the convenience of those who prefer 
plundering and murdering one another, is a monstrous 
doctrine ; and ought to yield to the mtfre rational law, 
that * the wrong which two nations endeavor to inflict 
on each other, must not infringe on the rights or con 
veniences of those remaining at peace." And what is 
contraband, by the law of nature ? Either every thing 
which may aid or comfort an enemy, or nothing. Either 
all commerce which would accommodate him is unlaw 
ful, or none is. The difference between articles of one 
or another description, is a difference in degree only. 
No line between them can be drawn. Either all inter 
course must cease between neutrals and belligerents, or 
all be permitted. Can the world hesitate to say which 
shall be the rule ? Shall two nations turning tigers, 
break up in one instant the peaceable relations of the 
whole world ? Reason and nature clearly pronounce 
that the neutral is to go on in the enjoyment of all its 
rights, that its commerce remains free, not subject to the 
jurisdiction of another, nor consequently its vessels to 
search, or to enquiries whether their contents are the 

* Venice and Genoa. 


property of an enemy, or are of those articles which have 
been called contraband of war. 

These opinions and arguments he communicated in 
the form of instructions, to Robert R. Livingston, nom 
inated as minister plenipotentiary to France the day af 
ter his inauguration. They were communicated unoffi 
cially, however, and with the express reservation, that 
they were not to be acted upon until the war in Europe, 
which threatened to embroil us with the principal bellige 
rents, should be brought to a termination. The same 
principles had been repeatedly sanctioned by the govern 
ment, and he entertained little doubt of the concurrence 
of his constitutional advisers. They formed a part of 
those instructions of Congress, drafted by himself in 
1784, to the first American ministers appointed to treat 
with the nations of Europe ; and which were acceded to 
by Prussia and Portugal. In the renewal of the treaty 
with Prussia, they had been avoided, at the instance of 
our then administration, lest it. should seem to commit us 
against England on a question then threatening decision 
by the sword ; and in the late treaty with the last named 
power, they had been abandoned by our envoy, which 
constituted a principal ground of opposition to that me 
morable negotiation. 

Scarcely had the president entered upon the duties of 
his office, when our commerce in the Mediterranean was 
interrupted by the pirates. Tripoli, the least considera 
ble of the Barbary powers, came forward with demands 
unfounded either in right or compact, and avowed the 
determination to extort them at the point of the sword, 
on our failure to comply peaceably before a given day. 
The president with becoming energy, immediately put 
in operation such measures of resistance as the urgency 
of the case demanded, without waiting the advice of Con 
gress. The style of the challenge admitted but one 
answer. He sent a squadron of frigate^ into the Medi 
terranean, with assurances to the Bey of Tripoli of our 



jsincere desire to remain in peace ; but with orders to pro 
tect our commerce, at all hazards, against the threaten- 

jed attack. The Bey had already declared war in form. 
His cruisers were out ; two had arrived at Gibraltar. 
Our commerce in the Mediterranean was blockaded ; 
and that of the Atlantic in peril. The arrival of the 
American squadron dispelled the danger. One of the 
Tripolitan cruisers having fallen in with and engaged a 
small schooner of ours, which had gone out as a tender 
to the larger vessels, was captured with a heavy slaugh 
ter of her men, and without the loss of a single one on 
our part. This severe chastisement, with the extraor 
dinary skill and bravery displayed by the Americans, 
quieted the pretensions of the Bey, and operated as a 
caution in future to that desperate community of free 

On the 8th of December, 1801, Mr Jefferson made his 
first annual communication to Congress, by message. It 
had been the uniform practice with his predecessors to 
make their first communications on the opening of Con 
gress, by personal address, to which a formal answer 
was immediately returned by each house separately. 
The president always used to go in state, as it was called, 
to deliver his speech. He moved to the capitol, preced 
ed by the marshal and constables of the district, with 
their white staffs, and accompanied by the -heads of de 
partments, the members of Congress, and a numerous 
procession of citizens. On these occasions he always 
wore his sword. A desire to impart a more popular 
character to the government by divesting it of a ceremo 
nial which partook in some degree of the character of a 
royal pageant, a regard to the convenience of the legis 
lature, the economy of their time, and relief from the 
embarrassments of immediate answers, induced Mr Jef 
ferson to adopt the mode of communication by message, 
to which no answer was returned. And his example 
has been followed by all succeeding presidents. 


The president announced in his message that the ces 
sation of hostilities in Europe had produced a consequent 
cessation of those irregularities which had afflicted the 
commerce of neutral nations ; and restored the ordinary 
communications of peace and friendship between the 
principal powers of the earth. That our intercourse 
with the Indians on our frontiers, was marked by a spirit 
of mutual conciliation and forbearance, highly advanta 
geous to both parties. That our relations with the Bar- 
bary States were in a less satisfactory condition, and 
such as to inspire the belief that measures of offence 
ought to be authorized, sufficient to place our force on 
an equal footing with that of its adversaries. That the 
increase of population within the last ten years, as indi 
cated by the late census, proceeded in such an unexam 
pled ratio as promised a duplication every twenty-two 
years. That this circumstance, combined with others, 
had produced an augmentation of revenue which pro 
ceeded in a ratio far beyond that of population, and au 
thorized a reduction of such of its branches as were par 
ticularly odious and oppressive. 

Accordingly he recommended the abolition of all the 
internal taxes, comprehending excises, stamps, auctions, 
licences carriages, and refined sugars ; to which he add 
ed the postage of newspapers to facilitate the progress 
of information. The remaining sources of revenue, aid 
ed by the extensive system of economy which he propos 
ed to introduce, would be sufficient, he contended, to 
provide for the support of government, to pay the inter 
est of the public debt, and to discharge the principal in 
a shorter period than the laws or the general expecta 
tion had contemplated. 

As supplemental, however, to the proposition for dis 
continuing the internal taxes, he recommended a dimi 
nution of the public disbursements, by the abolition of 
all superfluous drafts upon the treasury. He informed 
the legislature of the progress he had already made in 

314 LIFE OF 

this department of public duty, by the suppression of all 
unnecessary offices, agencies and missions, which depend 
ed on executive authority ; and recommended to their 
consideration a careful revision of the remainder. Con 
sidering, says he, the general tendency to multiply of 
fices and dependencies, and to increase expense to the 
ultimate term of burthen which the citizen can bear, it 
behooves us to avail ourselves of every occasion which 
presents itself, for taking off the surcharge ; that it never 
may be seen how that, after leaving to labor the smallest 
portion of its earnings on which it can subsist, govern 
ment shall itself consume the residue of what it was in 
stituted to guard/ 

In order to multiply barriers against the dissipation of 
the public money, he recommended Congress to establish 
the practice of specific appropriations, in all cases sus 
ceptible of definition ; to reduce the undefined field of 
contingencies ; and to bring back to a single department 
for examination and approval, all accountabilities for re 
ceipts and expenditures. 

He directed the attention of Congress to the army, 
and advised the reduction of the existing establishment 
to the number of garrisons actually necessary, and the 
number of men requisite for each garrison. A standing 
army in time of peace was both unnecessary and dan 
gerous. The militia was the main pillar of defence to 
the country, and the only force which could be ready at 
every point to repel invasion, until regulars could be pro 
vided to relieve them. This consideration rendered im 
portant a careful review, at every session, of the existing 
organization of the militia, and the amendment of such 
defects as from tirae to time might show themselves in 
the system, until it should be made sufficiently perfect. 
4 Nor should we now, said he, or at any time separate, 
until we can say we have done every thing for the militia 
which we could do were an enemy at our door. 

With respect to the navy, although a difference of opin- 


ion might exist as to the extent to which it should be car 
ried, yet all would agree that a small force was continu 
ally wanted for actual service in the Mediterranean. All 
naval preparations beyond this, the president thought, 
should be confined to the provision of such articles as 
might be kept without waste or consumption, and be in 
readiness for any exigence which might occur. 

The president was of opinion, that agriculture, man 
ufactures, commerce and navigation, were most disposed 
to thrive when left most free to individual enterprise. 
Protection from casual embarrassments, however, might 
sometimes be seasonably interposed ; and was clearly 
within the constitutional limits of Congress. 

He submitted to the serious consideration of the legis 
lature the judiciary system of the United States, and sug 
gested the expediency of rescinding that branch of it, 
recently erected, should it appear on examination to be 
superfluous, of which he entertained no doubt. While 
on the subject of the judiciary, he commended to their 
protection the inestimable institution of juries, urging 
the propriety of their extension to all cases involving the 
security of our persons or property, and the necessity of 
their impartial selection. 

The president warmly recommended a revisal of the 
laws on the subject of naturalization, and an abbrevia 
tion of the period prescribed for acquiring citizenship. 
The existing regulation, requiring a residence of four 
teen years, was a denial of citizenship to a great propor 
tion of those who asked it, obstructing the prosperous 
growth of the country, and incompatible with the hu 
mane spirit of our laws. 

After commending to them prudence and temperance 
in discussion, which were so conducive to harmony and 
rational deliberation within their own walls, and to that 
consolidation of sentiment among their constituents which 
was so happily increasing, the president concluded as 
follows : That all should be satisfied with any one or- 

316 LIFE OP 

der of things, is not to be expected ; but I indulge the 
pleasing persuasion that the great body of our citizens 
will cordially concur in honest and disinterested efforts, 
which have for their object to preserve the general and 
state governments in their constitutional form and equi 
librium, to maintain peace abroad, and order and obedi 
ence to the laws at home ; to establish principles and 
practices of administration favorable to the security of 
liberty and property, and to reduce expenses to what is 
necessary for the useful purposes of government. 

The first message of the first democratic president of 
,A/the United States, was anticipated with a fever of popu- 
; lar impatience. On its appearance, sensations diametri- 
"cally opposite were excited in the two great divisions of 
the political public. The fundamental features of his 
policy, as publicly delineated by the president, were too 
unequivocal and strongly marked not to realize the ex 
pectations of his supporters, and the necessary appre 
hensions of his adversaries. His propositions for lessen 
ing the expenditures of the previous administrations, by 
the abolition of sinecures, and the establishment of a 
rigid accountability with the remaining offices of the 
government ; for cutting down the army, and relying for 
ordinary protectio-n on the unpensioned resource of an 
omnipresent militia ; for reducing the navy to the actual 
force required for covering our commerce from the rav 
ages of the common enemies of Christendom ; for the 
gradual and systematic extinguishment of the public 
debt, in derision of the monarchical maxim that e a na 
tional debt is a national blessing ; for circumscribing 
discretionary powers over money, by establishing the 
rule of specific appropriations ; for restoring the hospi 
table policy of the government towards aliens, and fugi 
tives from foreign oppression ; for multiplying barriers 
around the sovereignty of the States and the liberties of 
the people, against the encroachments of the federal au 
thorities ; by crippling the despotism of the judiciary, 


and lopping from it a supernumerary member engrafted 
by his predecessors for political purposes ; all tbese 
propositions were seized with avidity by his opponents, 
and made one by one, a topic of censure or of raillery. 
On the other hand, innumerable addresses of thanks by 
republican assemblies, and by individual champions of 
the republican party, were communicated to him from 
every section of the union. To these he returned pub 
lic or private answers, according to the nature of the 

But of all the measures of reform recommended in the 
president s message, none was so extensive, as the prop 
osition to suppress all the internal taxes. This was in 
deed a solid inculcation of the principles of republicanism. 
In proposing to disband all these at a stroke, the presi 
dent meditated the disarming the government of an im 
mense resource of executive patronage and preponder 
ance, besides relieving the people of a surcharge of taxa 
tion. The disinterestedness of the transaction was only 
equalled by its boldness, at which the republicans them 
selves were considerably alarmed. In a letter to one of 
them, dated December 19, 1801, the president wrote : 

You will perhaps have been alarmed, as some have 
been, at the proposition to abolish the whole of the internal 
taxes. But it is perfectly safe. They are under a million 
of dollars, and we can economize the government two or 
three millions a year. The impost alone gives us ten or 
eleven millions annually, increasing at a compound ra 
tio of six and two thirds per cent, per annum, and con 
sequently doubling in ten years. But leaving that in 
crease for contingencies, the present amount will support 
the government, pay the interest of the public debt, and 
discharge the principal in fifteen years. If the increase 
proceeds, and no contingencies demand it, it will pay off 
the principal in a shorter time. Exactly one half of the 
public debt, to wit, thirty-seven millions of dollars, is 
owned in the United States. That capital then will be 
set afloat, to be employed in rescuing our commerce 

318 LIFE OF 

from the hands of foreigners, or in agriculture, canals, 
bridges, or other useful enterprises. By suppressing at 
once the whole internal taxes, we abolish three-fourths 
of the offices now existing, and spread over the land. 
Seeing the interest you take in the public affairs, I have in 
dulged myself in observations flowing from a sincere and 
ardent desire of seeing our affairs put into an honest and 
advantageous train. 

The first Congress which assembled after Mr Jeffer 
son came into power, contained an ascendency of repub 
licanism in both houses ; with just enough of opposition 
to hoop the majority indissolubly together, and induce 
the legislature to move in strong co-operation with the 
executive. They erected into laws all the^fundamental 
changes recommended by the president, and thereby 
enabled him to carry through a system of administration 
which substantially revolutionized the governme nt. 

To other specific improvements might be added the 
general simplification of the system of finance, in which 
he was powerfully aided by Gallatin ; and the establish 
ment of the permanent rule of definite appropriations of 
money for all objects susceptible of definition, so that 
every person in the United States might know for what 
purpose, and to what amount, every fraction of the pub 
lic expenditure was applied. His watchfulness over this 
department of administration, the operations of which 
are so intimately interwoven with all human concerns, 
is forcibly illustrated by the following letter to the secre 
tary of the treasury. 

4 1 have read and considered your report on the oper 
ations of the sinking fund, and entirely approve of it, as 
the best plan on which we can set out. I think it an 
object of great importance, to be kept in view and to be 
undertaken at a fit season, to simplify our system of 
finance, and bring it within the comprehension of every 
member of Congress. 

I like your idea of kneading all the little scraps and 
fragments into one batch, and adding to it a comple- 


mentary sum, which, while it forms it into a single mass 
from which every thing is to be paid, will enable us, 
should a breach of appropriation ever be charged on us, 
to prove that the sum appropriated, and more, has been 
applied to its specific object. 

But there is a point beyond this, on which I should 
wish to keep my eye, and to which I should aim to ap 
proach by every tack which previous arrangements force 
on us. That is, to form into one consolidated mass all 
the moneys received into the treasury, and to marshal 
the several expenditures, giving them a preference of 
payment according to the order in which they shall be 
arranged. As for example. 1. The interest of the pub 
lic debt. 2. Such portions of principal as are exigible. 
3. The expenses of government. 4. Such other portions 
of principal as, though not exigible, we are still free to 
pay when we please. The last object might be made to 
take up the residuum of money remaining in the treasury 
at the end of every year, after the three first objects were 
complied with, and would be the barometer whereby to 
test the economy of the administration. It would fur 
nish a simple measure by which every one could mete 
their merit, and by which every one could decide when 
taxes were deficient or superabundant. If to this can 
be added a simplification of the form of accounts in the 
treasury department, and in the organization of its offi 
cers, so as to bring every thing to a single centre, we 
might hope to see the finances of the Union as clear and 
intelligible as a merchant s books, so that every member 
of Congress, and every man of any mind in the union, 
should be able to comprehend them, to investigate abu 
ses, and consequently to control them. 

I have suggested only a single alteration in the re 
port, which is merely verbal, and of no consequence. 
We shall now get rid of the commissioner of the internal 
revenue, and superintendent of stamps. It remains to 
amalgamate the comptroller and auditor into one, and re 
duce the register to a clerk of accounts ; and then the 
organization will consist, as it should at first, of a keep 
er of money, a keeper of accounts, and the head of the 
department. I have hazarded these hasty and crude 
ideas, which occurred on contemplating your report. 

320 LIFE OF 

They may be the subject of future conversation and cor 

The purchase of Louisiana from France, had long 
been a favorite object with Mr Jefferson, as essential to 
removing from the United States a continual and eternal 
collision and cause of war with the European possessor, 
besides securing to us the exclusive navigation of the 
western waters, and an immeasurable region of fertile 
country. The territory of Louisiana was originally col 
onized by France. In 1762, the greater part of it, in 
cluding the island of New Orleans, was ceded to Spain ; 
and by the general treaty of peace which followed the 
Canadian war in 63, the whole territory of France and 
Spain, eastward of the Mississippi to the Ibberville, 
thence through the middle of that river to the sea, was 
ceded to Great Britain. Under the former possession 
by France, the territory embraced what is denominated 
West Florida. Spain during the war of the revolution 
conquered this, with East Florida, from Great Britain, 
and acquired the right to them both by the treaty of 83. 
While in the hands of Spain, the United States acquired 
the right to a free navigation of the Mississippi, and to 
an entrepot at New-Orleans. About this time, to wit, 
in 1800, Spain restored to France the whole of Louisia 
na according to its ancient and proper limits. This 
transfer was attended with a suspension of our right of 
deposit at New-Orleans, and opened to us in the opin 
ion of the president, the prospect of a complete reversal 
of all our friendly relations with France. In view of the 
threatening crisis, he immediately joined Mr Monroe as 
envoy extraordinary, to R. R. Livingston, minister res 
ident at the French court, with instructions joint and 
several to. negotiate the purchase of Louisiana from 
France. In the letter to Mr Monroe conveying the no- 
tice of his appointment, the president says : All eyes, 
all hopes are now fixed on you ; and were you to decline, 


the chagrin would be universal, and would shake under 
your feet the high ground on which you stand with the 
public. For on the event of this mission may depend 
the future destinies of this republic. If we cannot, by 
a purchase of the country, insure to ourselves a course 
of perpetual peace and friendship with all nations, then, 
as war cannot be distant, it behooves us immediately to 
be preparing for that course, without, however, hasten 
ing it ; and it may be necessary, on your failure on the 
continent, to cross the channel. We shall get entangled 
in European politics, and figuring more, be much less 
happy and prosperous. This can only be prevented by 
a successful issue to your present mission I am sensi 
ble after the measures you have taken for getting into a 
different line of business, that it will be a great sacrifice 
on your part, and presents from the season and other 
circumstances, serious difficulties. But some men are 
born for the public. Nature, by fitting them for the 
service of the human race on a broad scale, has stamp 
ed them with the evidences of her destination and their 

The personal agency of Mr Jefferson in this achieve 
ment was of the most laborious character. In addition 
to his official instructions communicated through the 
secretary of State, his private letters to our ministers, 
and to influential characters in France, on whose fidelity 
and friendship he relied, are ample testimonials of his 
ardor and indefatigableness in the prosecution of the en- 
terprize. Among these, is the following, addressed to Mr 

* The cession of Louisiana and the Floridas by Spain 
to France, works most sorely on the United States. Or. 
this subject the secretary of State has written to you ful 
ly, yet I cannot forbear recurring to it personally, so 
deep is the impression it makes on my mind. It com 
pletely reverses all the political relations of the United 

322 LIFE OF 

States, and will form anew epoch in our political course. 
Of all nations of any consideration, France is the one, 
which, hitherto, has offered the fewest points on which 
we could have any conflict of right, and the most points 
of a communion of interests. From these causes we 
have ever looked to her as our natural friend^ as one 
with which we never could have an occasion of differ 
ence. Her growth, therefore, we viewed as our own, 
her misfortunes ours. There is on the globe one single 
spot, the possessor of which is our natural and habitual 
enemy. It is New-Orleans, through which the produce 
of three-eighths of our territory must pass to market, 
and from its fertility it will ere long yield more than 
half of our whole produce, and contain more than 
half of our inhabitants. France, placing herself in that 
door, assumes to us the attitude of defiance. Spain 
might have retained it quietly for years. Her pacific 
dispositions, her feeble state, would induce her to in 
crease our facilities there, so that her possession of the 
place would be hardly felt by us, and it would not, per 
haps, be very long before some circumstances might 
arise, which might make the cession of it to us the price 
of something of more worth to her. Not so can it ever 
be in the hands of France : the impetuosity of her tem 
per, the energy and restlessness of her character, placed 
in a point of eternal friction with us, whilst our character, 
which, though quiet and loving peace and the pursuit of 
wealth, is high-minded, despising wealth in competition 
with insult or injury, enterprising and energetic as any 
nation on earth, are circumstances which render it im 
possible that France and the United States can continue 
long friends, when they meet in so irritable a position. 
They, as well as we, must be blind, if they do not see 
this ; and we must be very improvident if we do not be 
gin to make arrangements on that hypothesis. The day 
that France takes possession of New-Orleans, fixes the 
sentence which is to restrain her for ever within her low- 
water mark. It seals the union of two nations, who, in 
conjunction, can maintain exclusive possession of the 
ocean. From that moment we must marry ourselves to 
the British fleet and nation. We must turn all our at 
tentions to a maritime force, for which our resources 


place us on very high ground : and having formed and 
connected together a power which may render reinforce 
ment of her settlements here impossible to France, make 
the first cannon which shall be fired in Europe the sig 
nal for tearing up any settlement she may have made, 
and for holding the two continents of America in seques 
tration for the common purposes of the United British 
and American nations. This is not a state of things we 
seek or desire. It is one which this measure, if adopted 
by France, forces on us as necessarily, as any other 
cause, by the laws of nature, brings on its necessary ef 
fect. It is not from a fear of France that we deprecate 
this measure proposed by her. For however greater 
her force is than ours, compared in the abstract, it is 
nothing in comparison of ours, when to be exerted on 
our soil. But it is from a sincere love of peace, and a 
firm persuasion, that, bound to France by the interests 
and the strong sympathies still existing in the minds 
of our citizens, and holding relative positions which in 
sure their continuance, we are secure of a long course of 
peace. Whereas, the change of friends, which will be 
rendered necessary if France changes that position, em 
barks us necessarily as a belligerent power in the first 
war of Europe. In that case, France will have held 
possession of New-Orleans during the interval of a peace, 
long or short, at the end of which it will be wrested from 
her. Will this short lived possession have been an equiv 
alent to her for the transfer of such a weight into the 
scale of her enemy ? Will not the amalgamation of a 
young, thriving nation, continue to that enemy the health 
and force which are at present so evidently on the de 
cline ? And will a few years possession of New-Or 
leans add equally to the strength of France ? She may 
say she needs Louisiana for the supply of her West In 
dies. She does not need it in time of peace, and in war 
she could not depend on them, because they would be so 
easily intercepted. I should suppose that all these con 
siderations might, in some proper form, be brought into 
view of the government of France. Though stated by 
us, it ought not to give offence ; because we do not bring 
them forward as a menace, hut as consequences not con 
trollable by us, but inevitable from the course of things. 

324 LIFE OF 

We mention them not as things which we desire by any 
means, but as things we deprecate ; and we beseech a 
friend to look forward arid to prevent them for our com 
mon interests. 

I have no doubt you have urged these considerations, 
on every proper occasion, with the government where 
you are. They are such as must have effect, if you can 
find means of producing thorough reflection on them by 
that government. The idea here is, that the troops sent 
to St Domingo, were to proceed to Louisiana after fin 
ishing their work in that island. If this were the ar 
rangement, it will give you time to return again and 
again to the charge. For the conquest of St Domingo 
will not be a short work. It will take considerable time, 
and wear down a great number of soldiers. Every eye in 
the United States is now fixed on the affairs of Louisiana. 
Perhaps nothing, since the revolutionary war, has pro 
duced more uneasy sensations through the body of the na 
tion. Notwithstanding temporary bickerings have taken 
place with France, she has still a strong hold on the affec 
tions of our citizens generally. I have thought it not amiss, 
by way of supplement to the letters of the secretary of 
State, to write you this private one, to impress you with 
the importance we affix to this transaction. I pray you 
to cherish Dupont. He has the best dispositions for the 
continuance of friendship between the two nations, and 
perhaps you may be able to make a good use of him. 

On the 30th of April 1803, the negociation was con 
cluded, and the entire province of Louisiana was ceded 
to the United States for the sum of fifteen millions of 
dollars. The American negociators seized the favorable 
moment to urge the claims of American merchants on 
the French government, for spoliations on their proper 
ty, which were allowed to the amount of three millions 
seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars, and the bar 
gain was thus closed. This important acquisition more 
than doubled the territory of the United States, trebled 
the quantity of fertile country, secured the uncontrolled 
navigation of the Mississippi and its tributaries, and 
opened an independent outlet for the produce of 


the western States, free from collision with other pow 
ers, and the perpetual dangers to our peace from that 
source. The treaty was received with approbation by 
the great majority of the nation. There were some, 
however, particularly in the eastern States, who wrote 
and declaimed strenuously against it. They saw in the 
great enlargement of our territory the seeds of a future 
dismemberment of the union, by a separation into east 
ern and western confederacies. On the other hand, it 
was the opinion of the president, that the acquisition 
would prove an additional bond of union, rather than a 
cause of dismemberment ; that the larger our associa 
tion was, the less it would be shaken by local factions ; 
and that no one could presume to limit the extent to 
which the federative principle might operate effectively. 
Mr Madison maintained the same opinion in the Feder 
alist ; and experience has hitherto confirmed it. But in 
any view of the case, were those apocryphal dangers 
worthy a moment s consideration, when contrasted with 
the certain and incalculable blessings of the conquest,* 
as well positive and immediate, as by the avoidance in 
future, of those interminable calamities which would 
have ensued from a contrary state of things 1 Was it 
not better that the opposite bank of the Mississippi should 
be settled by our own brethren and children, than by 
strangers of adverse feelings and principles 1 With 
which should we have been most likely to have lived in 
harmony and friendly intercourse, down to the present 

To General GATES. I accept with pleasure, and 
with pleasure reciprocate your congratulations on the 
acquisition of Louisiana : for it is a subject of mutual 
congratulation, as it interests every man of the nation. 
The territory acquired, as it includes all the waters of 
the Missouri aud Mississippi, has more than doubled the 
area of the United States, and the new part is not infe 
rior to the old, in soil, climate, productions, and impor- 



tant communications. If our legislature dispose of it 
with the wisdom we have a right to expect, they may 
make it the means of tempting all our Indians on the 
east side of the Mississippi to remove to the West, and of 
condensing instead of scattering our population. 

To M. DUPONT DE NEMOURS. * The treaty which has 
so happily sealed the friendship of our two countries, has 
been received here with general acclamation. Some in 
flexible opponents have still ventured to brave the public 
opinion. For myself and my country I thank you for 
the aids you have given in it ; and I congratulate you 
on having lived to give those aids in a transaction replete 
with blessings to unborn millions of men, and which will 
mark the face of a portion on the globe so extensive as 
that which now composes the United States of America. 
* * * Our policy will be to form New Orleans and 
the country on both sides of it on the Gulf of Mexico, 
into a State ; and, as to all above that, to transplant our 
Indians into it, constituting them a Marechausscc to pre 
vent emigrants crossing the river, until we shall have fil 
led up all the vacant country on this side. This willse- 
cure both Spain and us as to the mines of Mexico, for 
half a century, and we may safely trust the provisions 
for that time to the men who shall live in it. 

When the treaty arrived, the president convened Con 
gress at the earliest day practicable, for its ratification 
and execution. The federalists in both houses declaim 
ed and voted against it, but they were now so reduced in 
numbers as to be incapable of serious opposition. The 
question on its ratification in the senate was decided by 
twenty-four against seven. The vote in the house of rep 
resentatives for making provision for its execution, was 
carried by eighty-nine against twenty-three. Mr Pichon, 
minister of France, proposed, according to instructions 
from his government, to have added to the ratification a 
protestation against any failure in time or other circum 
stances of execution on our part. He was told by the 
president, that in that case a counter protestation would 
be annexed on our part, which would leave the thing 


exactly where it was ; that the negotiation had been con 
ducted from the commencement to its present stage, 
with a frankness and sincerity honorable to both nations: 
that to annex to this last chapter of the transaction such 
an evidence of mutual distrust, would be to change its 
aspect dishonorably to both parties ; that we had not 
the smallest doubt that France would purictuallyxecute 
her part. Seeing the ratification passed, and the bills 
for execution carrying by large majorities in both hou 
ses, Mr Pichon, like an able and honest minister, un 
dertook to do what he knew his employers would have 
done with a like knowledge of the circumstances, and ex 
changed the ratifications. Commissioners were imme 
diately deputed to receive possession. They proceeded 
to New Orleans with such regular troops as were garri 
soned in the nearest posts, and some militia of the Mis 
sissippi territory. To be prepared for any thing unex 
pected, which might arise out of the transaction, a re 
spectable body of militia was ordered to be in readiness 
in the states of Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee. No oc 
casion, however, arose for their services. Our commis 
sioners, on their arrival at New Orleans, found the prov 
ince already delivered by the commissaries of Spain to 
that of France, who delivered it over to them on the 
20th of December, 1803. 

The circumstance ought not to be overlooked that 
this mighty acquisition, exceeding in territory the great 
est monarchy in Europe, was achieved without the guilt 
or calamities of blood, from a military autocrat, whose 
ceaseless ambition was a universality of empire, and 
who, in the untamable pursuit of his purpose, went on 
demolishing nations at a blow, and partitioning the earth 
at pleasure, until vanquished by the consolidated power 
of Europe. * There is no country, says a writer, like 
the valley of the Mississippi on the face of the globe. 
Follow the mighty amphitheatre of rocks that nature has 
heaped around it. Trace the ten thousand rivers that 

328 LIFE OF 

unite their waters in the mighty Mississippi ; count the 
happy millions that already crowd and animate their 
banks loading their channels with a mighty produce. 
Then see the whole, bound by the hand of nature in 
chains which God alone can sever, to a perpetual union 
at one little connecting point ; and by that point fasten 
ing itself by every tie of interest, consanguinity, and 
feeling, to the remotest promontory on our Atlantic 
coast. A few short years have done all this ; and yet 
ages are now before us : ages in which myriads are des 
tined to multiply throughout its wide spread territory, 
extending the greatness and the happiness of our country 
from sea to sea. What would we have been without the 
acquisition of Louisiana 1 What were we before it 1 
God and nature fixed the unalterable decree, that the 
nation which held New Orleans should govern the whole 
of that vast region. France, Spain, and Great Britain, 
had bent their envious eyes upon it. And their intrigues, 
if matured, would eventually have torn from us that vast 
paradise which reposes upon the western waters. 
Other conquests bring with them misery and oppression 
to the luckless inhabitant. This brought emancipation, 
civil and religious freedom, laws, wealth. 

The humane and conciliatory policy extended to 
wards the Indians on our frontiers, was another distin 
guishing feature of the administration. A free and 
friendly commerce was opened between them and the 
United States. Trading houses were established among 
them, and necessaries furnished them in exchange for 
their commodities, at such moderate prices as were only 
a remuneration to us, while highly advantageous to them. 
Instead of relying on an augmentation of military force, 
proportioned to our constant extension of frontier, the 
president recommended a gradual enlargement of the 
capital employed in this species of commerce, as a more 
effectual, economical and humane instrument for pre 
serving peace with the aborigines. The visible and tan- 


gible advantages of civilization were spread before their 
eyes, with a view to train their minds insensibly to the 
reception of its moral blessings. They were liberally 
supplied with the implements of husbandry, and house 
hold use* instructors in the arts of first necessity were 
stationed and maintained among them ; the introduction 
of ardent spirits into their limits, was prohibited, at the 
request of many of their chiefs ; and the punishment of 
death by hanging was commuted into death by military 
execution, which was less repugnant to their minds, and 
diminished the obstacles to the surrender of the criminal. 

The practice of the art of vaccination, first success 
fully introduced into this country by the exertions of 
president Jefferson, was made by him to diffuse its bles 
sings among the Indians, with an effect as astonishing as 
it was humane and endearing. The terrible pestilence, 
of which this discovery proved an antidote, .was even 
more fatal in its ravages among the natives of the wil 
derness than in civilized society. The medical skill of 
their physicians had riot attained even to an assuagement 
of its violence. Whole tribes were swept away at a blast. 
They opposed no other shield against its attacks than 
flight, or the fortitude of martyrs. By the persuasions 
and exertions of the president, they were induced to be 
lieve in the efficacy of vaccination as a preventive. Com 
ing from so good a father, they thought it must have been 
sent him from the Great Spirit ; and whole nations sub 
mitted to the process of inoculation, with the warmest 
benedictions on their benevolent protector. 

These conciliatory measures of the government, with 
the most rigorous enactments against the intrusion of in 
cendiaries and hostile emissaries, established and main 
tained a course of friendly relations with the Indians, 
which was uninterrupted by war with any tribe during 
Mr Jefferson s administration. Out of this continued state 
of peace and reciprocal kindness, treaties sprung up 
annually, which secured to the United States great ac- 



cessions to their territorial title. The same year of the 
acquisition of Louisiana, was distinguished by the purchase 
from the Kaskaskias of that vast and fertile country ex 
tending along the Mississippi, from the mouth of the 
Illinois to the Ohio ; which was followed, "the next 
year, by the relinquishment from the Delawares of the 
native title to all the country between the W abash and 
Ohio. These acquisitions comprehended the territory 
which forms the present states of Illinois and Indiana. 
They were soon followed by other purchases of great 
extent and fertility, from the northern tribes, and from 
the Chickasaws, Cherokees and Creeks of the southern. 
The amount of national domain, to which the native ti 
tle was extinguished under Mr Jefferson, embraced near 
ly one hundred millions of acres. In exchange for this, 
with the addition of an uninterrupted peace with them, 
the United States had only to pay inconsiderable annui 
ties in animals, in money, in the implements of agricul* 
ture, and to extend to them their patrp.nage and protec 

The administration of Mr Jefferson in relation to for 
eign powers, was based upon the broad principles of his 
inaugural maxim- peace, commerce, and honest friend 
ship with all nations, entangling alliances with none. 
His opinions on commerce were the same as those incul 
cated in his report in 93 ; and they were such as have 
since been sanctioned by the government. The ports 
of the United States were declared open to all nations 
without distinction, and the unmolested enjoyment of the 
ocean, as the common theatre of navigation, was claim 
ed as an inviolable right. Freedom was offered for 
freedom, and prohibition was opposed to prohibition 
with every nation on the globe. A free system of com 
merce, which should leave to nations the exchange of 
mutual surplusses for mutual wants, on the basis of easy 
and exact reciprocity, was his desire ; but if any nation, 
deceived by calculations of interest into a contrary sys- 


tern, should defeat that wish, his determination was fixed 
to meet inequalities abroad by countervailing inequalities 
at home, as the only effectual weapon of coercion and of 
self-protection. With regard to treaties, it was the sys 
tem of the president to have none with any nation, as 
far as could be avoided. 

The United States were not in a situation to command 
reciprocal advantages, and to none other would he suc 
cumb by a written compact. The existing treaties, 
therefore, were permitted to expire without renewal, 
and all overtures for treaty with other nations were de 
clined. He believed also, that with nations as with in 
dividuals, dealings might be carried on as advantageous 
ly, perhaps more so, while their continuance depended 
on voluntary and reciprocal good treatment, as if fixed 
by a permanent contract, which, when it became injuri 
ous to either party, was made, by forced constructions, 
to mean what suited them, and became a cause of war, 
instead of a bond of peace. He had a perfect horror at 
every thing like connecting ourselves with the politics 
of Europe. They were governed by so many false prin 
ciples, that he deemed a temporary acquiescence under 
these, preferable to entangling ourselves with them by 
alliances extorted from our present imbecility on the 
water. Peace was now our most important interest, 
and a recovery from debt. * If we can delay but for a 
few years, he wrote to an American minister, the ne 
cessity of vindicating the laws of nature on the ocean, 
we shall be the more sure of doing it with effect. The 
day is within my time as well as yours^ when we may suy 
by what laws other nations shall treat us on the sea. And 
we will say it. In the mean time we wish to let every 
treaty we have drop off without renewal. With regard 
to the British government, in particular, he had so little 
confidence that they would voluntarily retire from their 
habitual wrongs in the impressment of our seamen, that 
without an express stipulation to that effect, he was sat- 

332 LIFE OP 

isfied we ought never to tie up our hands by treaty, from 
the right of passing non-importation or non-intercourse 
acts, to make it their interest to become just. 

Out of this keen sensibility to maritime injuries, a 
transaction arose which afforded a pretext for torrents 
of abuse upon the president. A committee of the senate 
called on him with two resolutions of that body on the 
subject of impressment and spoliations by Great Britain, 
and urged the importance of an extraordinary mission, 
to demand satisfaction. The president was averse to 
the measure. The members of the other house applied 
to him individually, and represented the responsibility 
which a failure to obtain redress would throw on him, 
while pursuing a course in opposition to the opinion of 
nearly every member of the legislature. He found it 
necessary, at length, to yield to the general sense of the 
legislative body ; and accordingly nominated Mr Mon 
roe as minister extraordinary, to join Mr Pinckney, at 
the British Court. Explicit instructions were given 
them to conclude no treaty without a specific article 
guarding against impressments. After a tedious nego 
tiation they succeeded in concluding a treaty the best 
probably that could be procured but containing no pro 
vision against future aggressions on our seamen, which 
was made an express sine qua non in their instructions. 
There was no excuse for such an omission ; for on re 
ceiving information from our negociators, that they had 
it in their power to sign such a treaty, the president in 
return had apprised them that should it be forwarded it 
could not be ratified, and he recommended a resumption 
of negociations for inserting the stipulation in question. 
The treaty came to hand exactly in the exceptionable 
shape which the administration had predetermined 
against. The president rejected it on his own respon 
sibility, and transmitted instructions to put the treaty 
into an acceptable form, if practicable; otherwise, to 
back out of the negociation as well as they could. 


Besides the abandonment of the principle which was 
the great object of the extraordinary mission, there were 
other material objections to the treaty, which were sup 
posed to justify the president in rejecting it. The Brit 
ish commissioners appeared to have screwed every ar 
ticle as far as it would bear, to have surrendered nothing, 
and taken every thing. There was but a single article 
in the treaty, the expunging of which would have left 
such a preponderance of evil in all the others, as to have 
made it worse than no treaty ; and even that article ad 
mitted only our right to enjoy the indirect colonial trade, 
during the present hostilities. If peace was made that 
year, and war resumed the next, the benefit of this stip 
ulation was gone, and yet we were bound for ten years, 
to pass no non-importation or non-intercourse laws, nor 
take any other measures to restrain the usurpations of 
the Leviathan of the ocean. And to crown the whole, 
a protestation was annexed by the British ministers, at 
the time of the signature, the effect of which was to leave 
that government free to consider it a treaty or no treaty, 
according to their own convenience, while it bound the 
United States finally and unconditionally. 

This proceeding of the president was considered a fa 
tal error by the opponents of the administration ; and 
many sensible republicans were inclined to the opinion 
that he should have consulted the co-ordinate branch of 
the treaty-making power, on the question of rejection. 
But the constitution has made the concurrence of both 
branches necessary to the confirmation, not to the re 
jection of a treaty ; and where that instrument has con 
fided independent matters to either department of gov 
ernment, it is the right and duty of such department to 
decide independently as to the course it shall pursue. 
Mr Jefferson acted upon this construction ; and the same 
principle has been recognized, in repeated instances, 
under federal and republican adminstrations. The lead 
ing principle of the constitution evidently is the inde- 

334 LIFE OP 


pendence of the legislature, executive and judiciary, of 
each other ; arid the utmost jealousy should be exercised 
by each, to prevent either of the others from becoming 
a despotic branch. This was the deliberate opinion of 
Mr Jefferson, on which he always acted, and declared 
he would ever act, and maintain it with the powers of 
the government, against any control which might be at 
tempted by the judiciary or legislature in subversion of 
his right to move independently in his peculiar province. 
Examples in which the position has been maintained, 
and sufficient to establish its soundness, have abounded 
in the practice of the government. 

The opinions of the president on the subject of the 
navy, were not, perhaps such as have been generally ap 
proved ; though it is certain they have been greatly mis 
understood and misrepresented. Serious apprehensions 
were entertained by the federal party that Mr Jefferson 
would annihilate the whole marine establishment ; but 
they were totally discredited by the event. His first act, 
after having executed the law passed under his prede 
cessor, for the sale of certain vessels and reducing the 
number of our naval officers, was to *fit out a squadron 
for the Mediterranean, to resist a threatened aggression 
from Tripoli ; and this force, subsequently increased 
from time to time by his recommendations, was the 
means of effecting the suppression of Algerine pira 
cy. He afterwards recommended the construction of 
some additional vessels of strength, to be in readiness 
for the first moment of war, provided they could be pre 
served from decay and perpetual expense by being kept 
in ordinary. But the majority of the legislature were 
opposed to any augmentation of the navy ; and none 
consequently was made. This circumstance is worthy of 
notice, as illustrative of the fact that Mr Jefferson was 
less hostile to the navy than the great body of his sup 
porters. I know, says a gentleman* who executed 

* Samuel Smith. 


the duties of that department for some time, * that no 
man was a greater friend to the navy than Mr Jefferson. 
His acts brought it into notice its own gallantry and 
bravery have done the rest it now occupies a proud 
station in the eyes of the world. The bravery displayed 
by the Mediterranean squadron, in the war with Tripo 
li, raised the American character in Europe, and gave 
to our officers confidence in themselves. By affording 
them much instruction and an opportunity of acquiring 
a practical knowledge of their profession, it prepared 
them for a future contest, in which they crowned them 
selves and their country with glory fought their way 
to popularity at home, to the admiration of the world, 
and to the affections of their countrymen. It is more 
over generally admitted that the efforts of Mr Jefferson 
while in Paris, to form a perpetual alliance of the prin 
cipal European powers against the Barbary States, and 
subsequently, while secretary of State, to induce the ad 
ministration to dispatch a force into the Mediterranean 
adequate to the protection of our commerce, laid the 
first foundations of the American navy. Upon this point, 
there is extant the authority of a gentleman, whose 
knowledge of the subject enabled him to pronounce an 
opinion, which will not be questioned. The following 
letter from John Adams to Mr Jefferson, in 1822, with 
the answer of the latter annexed, places the history of 
the American navy in a light which ought to go far to 
wards removing the injurious misapprehensions that have 
prevailed on the subject. 

I have long entertained scruples about writing this 
letter, upon a subject of some delicacy. But old age has 
overcome them at last. 

4 You remember the four ships ordered by congress to 
be built, and the four captains appointed by Washing 
ton ; Talbot, and Truxton, and Barry, &c, to carry an 
ambassador to Algiers, and protect our commerce in the 
Mediterranean. I have always imputed this measure to 

336 LIFE OF 

you, for several reasons. First, because you frequently 
proposed it to me while we were at Paris, negociating 
together for peace with the Barbary powers. Secondly, 
because I knew that Washington and Hamilton were 
not only indifferent about a navy, but averse to it. There 
was no secretary of the navy ; only four heads of depart 
ment. You were secretary of State ; Hamilton, secretary 
of the treasury; Rnox, secretary of war; and I believe 
Bradford was attorney general. I have always suspect 
ed that you and Knox were in favor of a navy. If Brad 
ford was so, the majority was clear. But Washington, 
lam confident, was against it in his judgment. But 
his attachment to Knox, and his deference to your 
opinion, for I know he had a great regard for you, might 
induce him to decide in favor of you and Knox, even 
though Bradford united with Hamilton in opposition to 
you. That Hamilton was averse to the measure, I have 
personal evidence ; for while it was pending, he came in a 
hurry and a fit of impatience to make a visit to me. He 
said he was likely to be called upon for a large sum of mo 
ney to build ships of war to fight the Algerines, and he 
asked ray opinion of-the measure. I answered him that I 
was clearly in favor of it. For I had always been of 
opinion, from the commencement of the revolution, that 
a navy was the most powerful, the safest, and the cheap 
est national defence for this country, My advice, there 
fore was, that as much of the revenue as could possibly 
be spared, should be applied to the building and equip 
ping of ships. The conversation was of some length, 
but it was manifest in his looks and in his air, that he 
was disgusted at the measure, as well as at the opinion 
that I had expressed. 

4 Mrs Knox not long since wrote a letter to Doctor 
Waterhouse, requesting him to procure a commission for 
her son in the navy ; c that navy, says her ladyship, * of 
which his father was the parent. For, says she, 4 I 
have frequently heard General Washington say to my 
husband, the navy was your child. I have always be 
lieved it to be Jefferson s child, though Knox may have 
assisted in ushering it into the world. Hamilton s hob 
by was the army. That Washington was averse to a 
navy, I had full proof from his own lips, in many differ- 


ent conversations, some of them of length, in which he 
always insisted that it was only building and arming ships 
for the English. Si quid novisti rcctius istis, candidus 
imperil; si non, his utere mecum. 

Mr Jefferson s reply : 

4 1 have racked my memory and ransacked my papers, 
to enable myself to answer the enquiries of your favor of 
October the 15th ; but to little purpose. My papers 
furnish me nothing ; my memory, generalities only. I 
know that while I was in Europe, and anxious about the 
fate of our seafaring men, for some of whom, then in 
captivity in Algiers, we were treating, and all were in 
like danger, I formed, undoubtingly, the opinion that 
our government, as soon as practicable, should provide 
a naval force sufficient to keep the Barbary States in or 
der ; and on this subject we communicated together, as 
you observe. When I returned to the United States, and 
took part, in the administration under General Washing 
ton, I constantly maintained that opinion ; and in De 
cember, 1790, took advantage of a reference to me from 
the first Congress which met after I was in office, to re 
port in favor of a force sufficient for the protection of 
our Mediterranean commerce ; and I laid before them 
an accurate statement of the whole Barbary force, pub 
lic and private. I think General Washington approved 
of building vessels of war to that extent. General Knox 
I know did. But what was Colonel Hamilton s opinion, 
I do not in the least remember. Your recollections on 
that subject are certainly corroborated by his known 
anxieties for a close connection with Great Britain, to 
which he might apprehend danger from collisions be-* 
tween their vessels and ours. Randolph was then attor 
ney general ; but his opinion on the question I also en-, 
tirely forget. Some vessels of war were accordingly 
built and sent into the Mediterranean. The additions 
to these in your time, I need not note to you, who are 
well known to have ever been an advocate for the wood 
en walls of Themistocles. Some of those you added, 
were sold under an act of congress passed while you 
were in office. I thought, afterwards, that the public 
safety might require some additional vessels of strength, 

338 LIFE OF 

to be prepared and in readiness for the first moment of 
a war, provided they could be preserved against the de 
cay which is unavoidable if kept in the water, and clear 
of the expense of officers and men. With this view I 
proposed that they should be built in dry docks, above 
the level of the tide waters, and covered with roofs. I 
farther advised, that places for these docks should be se 
lected where there was a command of water on a high 
level, as that of the Tiber at Washington, by which the 
vessels might be floated out on the principle of a lock. 
But the majority of the legislature was against any ad 
dition to the navy, and the minority, although for it in 
judgment, voted against it on a principle of opposition. 
We are now, I understand, building vessels to remain 
on the stocks, under shelter, until wanted, when they 
will be launched and finished. On. my plan they could 
be in service at an hour s notice. On this, the finishing, 
after launching, will be a work of time. 

This is all I recollect about the origin and progress 
of our navy. That of the late war, certainly raised our 
rank and character among nations. Yet a navy is a ve 
ry expensive engine. It is admitted, that in ten or twelve 
years a vessel goes to entire decay ; or, if kept in repair, 
costs as much as would build a new one : and that a na 
tion who could count on twelve or fifteen years of peace, 
would gain by burning its navy and building a new one 
in time. Its extent, therefore, must be governed by cir 
cumstances. Since my proposition for a force adequate 
to the piracies of the Mediterranean, a similar necessity 
has arisen in our own seas for considerable addition to 
that force. Indeed, I wish we could have a convention 
with the naval powers of Europe, for them to keep down 
the pirates of the Mediterranean, and the slave ships on 
the coast of Africa, and for us to perform the same du 
ties for the society of nations in our seas. In this way, 
those collisions would be avoided between the vessels of 
war of different nations, which beget wars ; and consti 
tute the weightiest objection to navies. I salute you 
with constant affection and respect. 

It appears that the only difference of opinion between 
these illustrious statesmen on the subject of a navy, was 


as to the extent to which it should be carried. Mr 
Adams was for a heavy establishment, ready at all times, 
and sufficient to compete with that of the most powerful 
nation on the water, the moment it should become our 
adversary. Mr Jefferson thought that its extent should 
always be regulated by circumstances ; and this is pro 
bably the republican doctrine. Being a very expensive 
engine, both in its first creation, and in its maintenance 
against the unavoidable ravages of time, he was for re 
straining it in time of peace to a force sufficient only for 
the protection of our commerce ; and for confining all 
naval preparations against the contingency of war, to 
the building of ships in dry docks, where they could be 
kept free from decay, from the expense of officers and 
men, and ready at any moment for actual service. 

In addition to the incompetency of our resources to 
maintain a powerful navy, other and weighty objections 
existed at this time, which always had great influence on 
the mind of the President. The necessary multiplica 
tion of habitual violations of natural right, in the form of 
impressments, and the collisions from other sources, fitted 
to embroil us continually with the nations whom we 
could indeed master on the land, were sensible reasons 
against exhausting our strength on a navy, and transfer 
ring the scene of combat to a theatre where the enemy 
were omnipotent and we were nothing. To these might 
perhaps be added, equality in the distribution of the pub 
lic burthen, a favorite principle of administration with 
the president. One portion of the union, whose contri 
butions were least, would be elevated to greatness and 
wealth, to the depression ofcmother portion, whose con 
tributions were greatest, and pecuniary remuneration 
comparatively little. If there was error in this consider 
ation, it was founded in a too great anxiety for the good 
of the whole, rather than an undue influence of sectional 
feeling, of which a suspicion could scarcely find place 
even in the credulity of his enemies. 

340 LIFE OP- 

The plan for the establishment of dry docks, in pur 
suance of his naval system, was always a fruitful theme 
of raillery against the president; and yet, it is some 
what surprising that the principle should have since 
been sanctioned by the government, and have obtained 
the concurrent approbation of the greatest maritime 
powers in Europe. A plan, agreeing in its chief features 
with that of Mr Jefferson, though inferior to it in others, 
has since been adopted, both in this country and in 
Europe, for preventing ships from early decay by keep 
ing them out of the water, and protecting them from the 
weather. The most prodigal and aristocratic govern 
ments on the globe have now become converts to a prac 
tice, which it was alleged, originated in parsimony and 

The use of gun-boats, which composed a part of the 
naval system recommended by the president, has receiv 
ed an unlimited measure of condemnation at the hands 
of his political opponents. They were principally in 
tended, in connection witli land batteries, for the defence 
of our harbors and sea-port towns. The outlines of the 
plan are exhibited in the following statement of the pre 

c If we cannot hinder vessels from entering our har 
bors, we should turn our attention to the putting it out 
of their power to lie, or come to, before a town, to injure 
it. Two means of doing this may be adopted in aid of 
each other. 1. Heavy cannon on travelling carriages, 
which may be moved to any point on the bank or beach 
most convenient for dislodging the vessel. A sufficient 
number of these should be lent to each sea-port town, 
and their militia trained to them. The executive is au 
thorized to do this ; it has been done in a smaller de 
gree, and will now be done more competently. 

2. Having cannon on floating batteries or boats, 
which may be so stationed as to prevent a vessel enter 
ing the harbor, or force her, after entering, to depart. 
There are about fifteen harbors in the United States, 
which ought to be in a state of substantial defence. The 


whole of these would require, according to the best 
opinions, two hundred and forty gun-boats. Their cost 
was estimated by Captain Rodgers at two thousand dol 
lars each ; but we had better say four thousand dollars. 
The whole would cost one million of dollars. But we 
should allow ourselves ten years to complete it, unless 
circumstances should force it sooner. There are three 
situations in which the gun-boat may be. 1. Hauled up 
under a shed, in readiness to be launched and manned 
by the seamen and militia of the town on short notice. 
In this situation she costs nothing but an enclosure, or a 
sentinel to see that no mischief is done to her. 2. Afloat, 
and with men enough to navigate her in harbor and take 
care of her, but depending on receiving her crew from 
the town on short warning. In this situation, her annual 
expense is about two thousand dollars, as by an official 
estimate at the end of this letter. 3. Fully manned for 
action. Her annual expense in this situation is about 
eight thousand dollars, as per estimate subjoined. "When 
there is general peace, we should probably keep about 
six or seven afloat in the second situation; their annual 
expense twelve to fourteen thousand dollars ; the rest all 
hauled up. When France and England are at war, we 
should keep, at the utmost, twenty-five in the second 
situation, their annual expense fifty thousand dollars. 
When we should be at war ourselves, some of them would 
probably be kept in the third situation, at an annual ex 
pense of eight thousand dollars ; but how many, must 
depend on the circumstances of the war. We now pos 
sess ten, built and building. It is the opinion of those 
consulted, that fifteen more would enable us to put every 
harbor under our view into a respectable condition; and 
that this should limit the views of the present year. This 
would require an appropriation of sixty thousand dollars, 
and I suppose that the best way of limiting it, without 
declaring the number, as perhaps that sum would build 

In the Mediterranean, the superiority of gun-boats for 
harbor service has been illustrated by experience. Al 
giers is known to have owed the safety of its city since 
the epoch of their construction, to these vessels. Before 
that, it had been repeatedly insulted and injured. The 

342 LIFE OP 

effect of gun-boats in the neighborhood of Gibraltar is 
well known, and how much they were used both in the 
attack and defence of that place, during a former war. 
The remarkable action, between the Russian flotilla of 
gun-boats and galleys, and a Turkish fleet of ships of 
the line and frigates, in the Lirnan sea, in 1788, is mat 
ter of historical record. The latter, were completely 
defeated, and several of their ships of the line destroyed. 
There is not, it is believed, a maritime nation in Europe, 
which has not adopted the same species of armament for 
the defence of some of its harbors.; the English and 
French certainly have; by the northern powers of the 
continent, whose seas are particularly adapted to them, 
they are still more used ; and the only occasion on which 
Admiral Nelson was ever foiled, was by gun-boats at 

Mr Jefferson was re-elected by a vote of one hundred 
and sixty-two against fourteen. The only States which 
voted for his opponent, Pirickney, were Connecticut and 
Delaware, with two districts in Maryland. George Clin 
ton was elected vice president by the same majority over 
Rufus King. The unanimity of the vote on the present 
occasion, while it pronounced judgment of approbation 
on the character of the administration, is really unexam 
pled in the history of the United States, considering the 
circumstances of the times. The vote subsequently given 
to Mr Monroe, though more nearly unanimous, was much 
less extraordinary. The latter vote was given in a sea 
son of cairn; the former amid the violence of a po 
litical tempest. Every other chief magistrate also, ex 
cept General Jackson, has rode into ^office on the same 
tide of opinion that sustained his predecessor. They 
alone on an opposing one ; and in four years Mr Jeffer 
son nearly amalgamated both currents in his favor. 

On the 4th of March, 1805, Mr Jefferson re-entered 
upon the duties of the chief magistracy for another term. 
The same absence of all parade and ostentation, that 


characterized the former, was rigorously observed on the 
present occasion. 

In his second inaugural message, Mr Jefferson speaks 
of the influence of seditious intruders, operating upon 
the prejudices and ignorance of the Indians, which had 
always embarrassed the general government in its efforts 
to change their pursuits, and ameliorate their unhappy 
condition. These persons, said he, * inculcate a sanc 
timonious reverence for the customs of their ancestors; 
that whatsoever they did must be done through all time ; 
that reason is a false guide, and to advance under its 
council in their physical, moral, or political condition, is 
perilous innovation ; that their duty is to remain as their 
Creator made them, ignorance being safety, and know 
ledge full of danger ; in short, my friends, among them 
is seen the action and counteraction of good sense and 
bigotry ; they too, have their anti philosophers, who find 
an interest in keeping things in their present state, who 
dread reformation, arid exert all their faculties to main 
tain the ascendency of habit over the duty of improving 
our reason and obeying its mandates. 

New principles were advanced, regarding the appro 
priation of the surplus revenue of the nation, after the 
final redemption of the public debt. The epoch being 
not far distant, when that propitious event might be 
safely calculated to happen, the president thought it a 
fit occasion to suggest his views on the most eligible 
arrangement and disposal of the public contributions, 
upon the basis which would then be presented. Should 
the impost duties be suppressed, and that advantage 
given to foreign over domestic manufactures ? Should 
they be diminished, and upon what principles ? Or should 
they be continued, and applied to the purposes of inter 
nal improvement, education, &c ? were questions which 
he submitted to the consideration of the people, and sub 
sequently urged upon the attention of the legislature in 
his official communications. The president did not hesi- 

344 LIFE OF 

tate to recommend that the revenue, when liberated by 
the redemption of the public debt, should, by a just repar 
tition among the States and a corresponding amend 
ment of the constitution, be applied in time of peace, to 
rivers, canals, roads, arts, "manufactures, education, and 
other great objects of public utility within each State ; 
and in time of war, to defraying the accumulated ex 
penses of such a crisis from year to year, to which the 
current resources would be fully adequate, without en 
croaching on the rights of future generations by burthen- 
ing them with the debts of the past. War would then 
be but a suspension for the time being, of useful works; 
and the restoration of peace, a return to the progress of 
improvement, untrammeled by pecuniary embarrass 
ments. Instead therefore of reducing the revenue aris 
ing from the consumption of foreign articles, to the actual 
amount necessary for the current expenses of the go 
vernment, the president recommended its continuance 
with certain modifications, and its application to works 
of internal improvement. On some articles of more 
general and necessary use, he advised a suppression of 
the impost ; but the great mass of the articles on which 
duties were paid, "were foreign luxuries, purchased by 
those who were rich enough to use them without feeling 
the tax. Their patriotism certainly, he thought, would 
prefer a continuance of the general system which, while 
not oppressive to themselves, would prove advantageous 
to the nation, by furnishing the means of public educa 
tion, roads, rivers, canals, and such other objects of pub 
lic improvement as it might be thought proper to add to 
the constitutional enumeration of federal powers. By 
these operations new channels of communication would 
be opened between the States, the lines of separation be 
made to disappear, their interests be identified, and their 
union cemented by new and indissoluble ties. 

He placed education among the first arid worthiest of 
the objects of public care in its application of the surplus 


revenue ; not with a view to take its ordinary branches 
out of the hands of private enterprise, which managed 
so much better all the concerns to which it was equal ; 
but for the purpose of enlarging its sphere by supplying 
those sciences which, though rarely called for, were yet 
necessary to complete the circle, all the parts of which 
contributed to the improvement of the nation, and some 
of them to its preservation. In pursuance of this idea, 
he recommended to the consideration of Congress the 
establishment of a National University, with such an ex 
tension of the federal powers as should bring it within 
their jurisdiction. He believed an amendment of the 
constitution, by consent of the States, necessary as well 
for this, as for the other objects of public improvement, 
which he recommended ; because they were not among 
those enumerated in the constitution, and to which it 
permitted the public money to be applied. So early as 
1806, he informed Congress, that by the time the State 
legislatures should have deliberated upon the appropriate 
amendment to the constitution, the necessary laws be 
passed, and arrangements made for their execution, the 
requisite amount of funds would be on hand and without 
employment. He contributed liberally to the establish 
ment of the proposed institution, permitted his name to 
be placed at the head of it, and used every exertion to 
carry it into operation ; but the germ was unhappily 
blighted by sectional jealousies. 

The happy and advantageous train in which the affairs 
of the nation were established during the president s first 
term, left little for the remainder of his administration 
except to maintain peace and neutrality amidst the con 
vulsions of a warring world, and to rescue the union 
from one of the most nefarious and daring conspiracies 
recorded in modern history. The measures called into 
action by these two formidable difficulties, developed 
two opposite extremes of character in the government, 
which were so admirably adapted each to its respective 

346 LIFE OF 

exigency, as to have worked out for the country an al 
most supernatural deliverance. The forbearance and 
moderation manifested under the pressure of the crisis, 
were as necessary to our safety, as the energy and 
promptitude with which the internal enemy was crushed, 
and laid prostrate at the feet of government. 

The traitorous conspiracy of Burr was one of the most 
flagitious of which history will ever furnish an example ; 
and there was probably not a person in the United States 
who entertained a doubt of the real guilt of the accused. 
His purpose was to separate the western States from the 
union, annex Mexico to them, establish a monarchical 
government, with himself at the head, and thus provide 
an example and an instrument for the subversion of our 
liberties. The American Cataline, cool, sagacious and 
wary, had probably engaged one thousand men to follow 
his fortunes, without letting them know his projects, 
farther than by assurances that the government approved 
them. The great majority of his adherents took his as 
sertion for this, but with those who would not, and were 
unwilling to embark in his enterprises without the ap 
probation of the government, the following stratagem 
was practised. A forged letter, purporting to be from 
the secretary of war, was made to express his approba 
tion, and to say that the president was absent at Monti- 
cello, but that on his return, the enterprise would be 
sanctioned by him without hesitation. This letter was 
spread open on Burr s table, so as to invite the eye of all 
who entered his room. By this means he avoided expos 
ing himself to any liability to prosecution for forgery, 
while he proved himself a master in the arts of the con 
spirator. The moment the proclamation of the president 
appeared, undeceiving his deluded partisans, Burr found 
himself stript of his surreptitious influence, and left with 
about thirty desperadoes only. The people rose in mass 
wherever he appeared or was suspected to be, and by 
their energy the rebellion was crushed, without the ne- 


cessity of employing a detachment of the military* except 
to guard their respective stations. His first enterprise 
was to have seized New Orleans, which he [supposed 
would effectually bridle the upper country, reduce it to 
ready subjection, and plant him at the door of Mexico 
without an enemy in the rear. But, on unfurling the 
ensigns of the union there was not a single native Creole, 
and only one American, that did not abandon his stand 
ard, and rally under the banners of the constitution. His 
real partisans were the new emigrants from the United 
States and elsewhere, fugitives from justice, disaffected 
politicians, and desperate adventurers. The event was 
a happy one. It was always a source of exultation to 
the president, inasmuch as it realized his declaration on 
assuming the helm of public affairs that a republican 
government was the strongest one on earth, and the only 
one, where every man at the call of the law, would fly 
to the standard of the law, and would meet infractions 
of the public order, as his own personal concern. The 
atrocity of the crime, however, and the existence of the 
most conclusive proof compelled him, as it did every 
other reflecting mind, to seek in some other hypothesis 
than the jealous provisions of the laws in favor of life, 
the acquittal of this modern parricide. The result of the 
trial astonished the world, and confounded the specta 
tors, from whose minds every doubt had vanished, when 
the investigation was suddenly arrested by the decision 
of the court. The very verdict of the jury, that the 
accused was not proved guilty by any evidence submitted 
to them, was a virtual acknowledgment that the defect 
was in the application of the law, or the law itself, not 
in the evidence of guilt ; and this verdict was ordered to 
be recorded simply, Not guilty. Indeed, all the con 
sequences of the immovable tenure of the judiciary 
except by process of impeachment and their conse 
quent irresponsibility to any practicable control, were 
conspicuously demonstrated on the present occasion. No 

348 LIFE OF 

farther evidence was wanting to fix the president unal 
terably in the opinion which he had long entertained, that 
in tkis defect of the constitution lurked the canker which 
unless timely eradicated, was destined to destroy the 
equilibrium of powers in the general government, and 
between the general and state governments. In a letter 
written at this time, he says : 

4 All this, however, will work well. The nation will 
judge both the offender and judges for themselves. If a 
member of the executive or legislature does wrong, the 
day is never far distant when the people will remove him. 
They will see then, and amend the error in our constitu 
tion, which makes any branch independent of the nation. 
They will see that one of the great co-ordinate branches 
of the government, setting itself in opposition to the 
other two, and to the common sense of the nation, pro 
claims impunity to that class of offenders which endeav 
ors to overturn the constitution, and are themselves pro 
tected in it by the constitution itself: for impeachment 
is a farce which will not be tried again. If their pro 
tection of Burr produces this amendment, it will do more 
good than his condemnation would have done. Against 
Burr, personally, I never had one hostile sentiment. I 
never, indeed, thought him an honest, frank-dealing man, 
but considered him as a crooked gun, or other perverted 
machine, whose aim or shot you could never be sure of. 
Still, while he possessed the confidence of the nation, I 
thought it my duty to respect in him their confidence, 
and to treat him as if he deserved it : and if his punish 
ment can be commuted now for an useful amendment of 
the constitution, I shall rejoice in it. 

While on the subject of the independence of the judi 
ciary, it may be proper to examine the opinions of Mr 
Jefferson at a subsequent date, and under a more dispas 
sionate contemplation of the question, than was practi 
cable in the state of feeling excited by the case of Burr. 
The tenure of good behavior allotted to the federal 
judges, was a defect in the constitution of which no one 
thought at the time of its adoption, nor until the tenden- 


cies of the principle had begun to develope themselves 
by action. The amplitude of jurisdiction assumed dur 
ing the federal ascendency nearly co-extensive with the 
common law, seem first to have awakened the thinking 
part of the public in general, and Mr Jefferson in par 
ticular, to a sense of the dangerous error which made 
one of the three branches of government so effectually 
independent of the nation. His solicitude upon this im 
portant subject appeared to increase every year after 
wards, following him steadily into his retirement, as new 
occasions administered new aliment to his fears. The 
following extract of a letter to William T. Barry in 1822, 
evinces the state of his mind at that period, and the 
earnestness of his endeavors to procure an amendment 
of the constitution. 

1 I consider the party division of whig and tory the 
most wholesome which can exist in any government, and 
well worthy of being nourished, to keep out those of a 
more dangerous character. We already see the power, 
installed for life, responsible to no authority (for impeach 
ment is not even a scarecrow,) advancing with a noise 
less and steady pace to the great object of consolidation. 
The foundations are already deeply laid by their deci 
sions, for the annihilation of constitutional State rights, 
and the removal of every check, every counterpoise to 
the ingulphing power of which themselves are to make a 
sovereign part. If ever this vast country is brought 
under a single government, it will be one of the most ex 
tensive corruption, indifferent and incapable of a whole 
some care over so wide a spread of surface. This will 
not be borne, and you will have to choose between re 
formation and revolution. If I know the spirit of this 
country, the one or the other is inevitable. Before the 
canker is become inveterate, before its venom has reach 
ed so much of the body politic as to get beyond control, 
remedy should be applied. Let the future appointments 
of judges be for four or six years, and renewable by the 
president and senate. This will bring their conduct, at 
regular periods, under revision and probation, and may 

350 LIFE OF 

keep them in equipoise between the general and spe 
cial governments. We have erred in this point, by copy 
ing England, where certainly it is a good thing to have 
the judges independent of the King. But we have 
omitted to copy their caution also, which makes a judge 
removable on the address of both legislative houses. 
That there should be public functionaries independent of 
the nation, whatever may be their demerit, is a solecism 
in a republic, of the first order of absurdity and incon 

At the revolution in England it was considered a great 
point gained in favor of liberty, that the commissions of 
the judges which had hitherto been during the pleasure 
of the king, should thenceforth be given during good be 
havior ; and that the question of good behavior should 
be left to the vote of a simple majority in the two houses 
of parliament. A judiciary dependant on the will of the 
king, could never have been any other than an instru 
ment of tyranny ; nothing then could be more salutary 
than a change to the tenure of good behavior, with the 
concomitant restraint of impeachment by a simple majo 
rity. The founders of the American republic were more 
cordial in their jealousies of the executive than either of 
the other branches; so true was this of Mr- Jefferson in 
particular, that he at first thought the qualified negative 
given to that magistrate on all the laws, should have 
been much farther restricted. They therefore, very pro 
perly and consistently adopted the English reformation 
of making the judges independent of the executive. But 
in doing this they as little suspected they had made them 
independent of the nation, by requiring a vote of two 
thirds in the senatorial branch to effect a removal. Ex 
perience has proved such a majority impracticable where 
any defence is made, in a body of the strong political 
partialities and antipathies which ordinarily prevail. In 
the impeachment of judge Pickering of New Hampshire, 
no defence was attempted, otherwise the party vote of 


more than one third of the Senate would have acquitted 

The judiciary of the United States, then, is an irres 
ponsible body ; and history has established, if reason 
could not have foreseen, its slow and noiseless accession 
of influence, under the sanctuary of such a tenure. If 
the mischief is acknowledged, the only question should 
be, not when, but what should be the remedy ? * I would 
not, indeed, says Mr Jefferson, make the judges de 
pendent on the executive authority, as they formerly 
were in England ; but I deem it indispensable to the 
continuance of this government, that they should be sub 
mitted to some practical and impartial control ; and that 
this, to be impartial, must be compounded of a mixture 
of state and federal authorities. It is not enough that 
honest men are appointed judges. All know the influ 
ence of interest on the mind of man, and how unconsci 
ously his judgment is warped by that influence. To this 
bias add that of the esprit de corps, of their peculiar 
maxim and creed, that 4 it is the office of a good judge 
to enlarge his jurisdiction, and the absence of responsi 
bility ; and how can we expect impartial decision be 
tween the general government, of which they are so 
eminent a part, and an individual State, from which they 
have nothing to hope or fear. We have seen too, that, 
contrary to all correct example, they are in the habit of 
going out of the question before them, to throw an an 
chor ahead, and grapple farther hold for future advances 
of power. They are then, in fact, the corps of sappers 
and miners, steadily working to undermine the inde 
pendent rights of the States, and to consolidate all power 
in the hands of that government, in which they have so 
important a freehold estate. But it is not by the conso 
lidation or concentration of powers, but by their distri 
bution, that good government is effected. I repeat, 
he adds, that I do not charge the judges with wilful 
and ill-intentioned error ; but honest error must be arrest- 

352 LIFE OF 

ed, when its toleration leads to public ruin. As for the 
safety of society, we commit honest maniacs to Bedlam, 
so judges should be withdrawn from the bench, whose 
erroneous biases are leading us to dissolution. It may, 
indeed, injure them in fame or in fortune; but it saves 
the republic, which is the first and supreme law. 

The latter part of Mr Jefferson s administration was 
afflicted by a crisis in our foreign relations, which de 
manded the exercise of all that fortitude and self-denial 
which immortalized the introductory stages of the revo 
lution, and charged the entire responsibility of the war 
upon Great Britain. Unfortunately, the political ani 
mosities engendered by the contests of opinion which 
had distracted the nation, and the mania of commercial 
cupidity and avarice engendered by a twenty-four year s 
interval of peace, greatly interrupted on the present oc 
casion, that spirit of cohesion between the States, which 
alone carried us triumphantly through the revolution. 
The enthusiasm of the spirit of 76 had in a considera 
ble measure evaporated. Every description of embargo, 
and every degree of commercial deprivation, which was 
then too little to satisfy the rivalry of self-immolation in 
the cause of country, was now too great to be endured, 
though clothed with the authority of law, and intended 
to avert the calamities of war. 

From the renewal of hostilities between Great Britain 
and France in 1803, down to the period at which the em 
bargo was enacted, the commerce of the United States 
was subjected to depredations by the belligerents, until it 
was nearly annihilated. In the tremendous struggle for 
ascendency, which animated these powerful competitors 
and convulsed the European world to its centre, the laws 
of nature and of nations were utterly disregarded by 
both, and the injuries inflicted on our commerce by the 
one, were retaliated by the other ; not on the aggressor, 
but on the innocent and peaceable victim to their united 


Under the joint operation of their edicts and procla 
mations, there was riot a single port in Europe, or her 
dependences, to which American vessels could navigate 
without heing exposed to capture and condemnation. In 
this situation the president wisely recommended an em 
bargo ; and in pursuance of his recommendation the 
measure was adopted by Congress, on the 22d day of 
December, 1807, by overwhelming majorities in both 

In addition to the joint aggressions on our neutral 
rights, under the sweeping paper blockades of both bel 
ligerents, Great Britain was in the separate habit of dai 
ly violations of our sovereignty, in the form of impress 
ments. The injuries perpetually arising from this source 
alone, constituted an abundant cause of war, and con 
sequently of embargo. Denying the right of expatriation, 
the British ministry authorized the seizure of naturalized 
Americans wherever they could be found, under color of 
their having been born within the British dominions. 
From the abuses of this practice, sufficiently oppressive 
in its rightful exercise, thousands of American citizens, 
native born, as well as naturalized, w r ere subjected to the 
petty despotism of naval officers, acting as judges, juries 
and executioners, and doomed to slavery and death, or 
to become the instruments of destruction to their own 

Minor provocations and injuries were, in June 1807, 
absorbed in the audacity of an aggression, which is with 
out a parallel in the history of independent nations at 
peace. By order of the British admiral, Berkley, the 
ship Leopard of fifty guns fired on the United States 
frigate Chesapeake, of thirty-six guns, within the waters 
of the United States, in order to compel the delivery of 
part of her crew claimed as British subjects. After sev 
eral broadsides from the Leopard and four men killed 
on board the Chesapeake, the latter struck ; was board 
ed by the British ; and had four men taken from her, 

354 LIFE OF 

three of them native American citizens, one of whom 
was hanged as a British deserter. Never since the bat 
tle of Lexington had there existed such a state of univer 
sal exasperation in the public mind, as was produced by 
this aggression. Popular assemblies were convened in 
every considerable place, at which resolutions were pas 
sed expressive of indignation at the outrage. 

The president forthwith issued a proclamation, inter 
dicting British armed vessels from entering the waters 
of the United States, and commanding all those therein 
immediately to depart. In this manner peace was pro 
longed, without any compromise of the national honor, 
and saving the right to declare war under better auspi 
ces, on failure of an amicable reparation of the injury. 
By the time Congress assembled the affair of the Chesa 
peake was hopefully committed to negociation, with the 
additional constraint which it imposed on the British 
government to settle the whole subject of impressments. 
And the depredations on our neutral rights by the rival 
belligerents, under their orders in council, or imperial 
decrees, were put upon an equal footing, and made the 
occasion of an embargo operating equally and impar 
tially against both. 

As a substitute for war, an embargo was the choice 
of a less evil for a greater, and at the same time annoy 
ed the belligerent powers more than could have been 
done by open warfare. England felt it in her manufac 
tures by privations of the raw material, in her maritime 
interests by the loss of her naval stores, and above all in 
the discontinuance of supplies essential to her colonies. 
France felt it in the deprivation of all those luxuries 
which she had been accustomed to receive through our 
neutral commerce, and in the still more distressing de 
privation of necessaries for her colonies. Our com 
merce was the second in the world, our carrying trade 
the very first, and had the restraint upon them been rig 
idly observed, it might have inclined the European na- 


tions to justice. But the popular resistance was so 
great, so determined, and so daring", that it was found 
impracticable to enforce obedience, without provoking 
violence and insurrection. The consequence was that 
the practical efficacy of the embargo, as an engine of 
coercion, proved greatly disproportioned to the reasona 
ble expectations of its friends. 

Those engaged in foreign commerce, and in the car 
rying trade, were found to prefer the hazard of seizure 
and confiscation to a general embargo ; and where the 
interests of any portion of the community are supposed 
to be affected by a public measure, no consideration of 
national advantage or dignity will ever reconcile the ag 
grieved party to the smallest pecuniary sacrifice. The 
opposition to the embargo was no doubt more strenuous, 
from the circumstance that that portion of our citizens 
who were more immediately affected by its operation, 
particularly the merchants, considered themselves the 
best judges relative to the expediency of any restriction 
of the kind, and were inclined to look upon, the act of 
the executive as arbitrary and ill-advised. So impracti 
cable must it ever be found for the wisest government to 
consult the general welfare of the nation, and at the same 
time provide for local wants, or administer to sectional 

Among the distinguishing ornaments of the adminis 
trative policy of Mr Jefferson, none was more conspi 
cuous, none more congenial to the distinctive nature of 
republicanism, than his scrupulous adherence to the in 
violability of freedom of speech, of the press, and of re 
ligion. The utmost latitude of discussion was not only 
tolerated, but invited and protected, as a fundamental 
ingredient in the composition of republican government. 
The celebrated traveller, Baron Humboldt, calling on 
the president one day, was received into his cabinet. 
On taking up one of the public journals which lay upon 
the table, he was shocked to find its columns teeming 

356 LIFE OP 

with the most wanton abuse and .licentious calumnies 
against the president. He threw it down with indigna 
tion, exclaiming, Why do you not have the fellow hung 
who dares to write these abominable lies ? J The presi 
dent smiled at the warmth of the Baron, and replied 
4 What ! hang the guardians of the public morals? No, 
sir, rather would I protect the spirit of freedom which 
dictates even that degree of abuse. Put that paper into 
your pocket, my good friend, carry it with you to Europe, 
and when you hear any one doubt the reality of Ameri 
can freedom, show them that paper, and tell them where 
you found it. But is it not shocking that virtuous 
characters should be defamed ? replied the Baron. 
Let their actions refute such libels. Believe me, con 
tinued the president, virtue is not long darkened by the 
clouds of calumny ; and the temporary pain which it 
causes is infinitely overweighed by the safety it insures 
against degeneracy in the principles and conduct of pub 
lic functionaries. When a man assumes a public trust, 
he should consider himself as public property. * 

In pursuance of this principle, he discharged all those 
who were suffering persecution for opinion s sake, under 
the sedition law, immediately on coming into office. He 
interposed the executive prerogative in every instance, 
by ordering the prosecutions to be arrested ; or, if judg 
ment and execution had passed, by remitting the fines 
of the sufferers, and releasing them from imprisonment. 
The grounds on which he rested his right to act in these 
cases, are forcibly stated in answer to a correspondent 
in Massachusetts, who questioned the constitutionality 
of his interference. 

But another fact is, that I "liberated a wretch who 
was suffering for a libel against Mr Adams." I do not 
know who was the particular wretch alluded to ; but I 
discharged every person under punishment or prosecu- 

* Winter in Washington. 


tion under the sedition law, because I considered, and 
now consider, that law to be a nullity, as absolute and 
as palpable as if Congress had ordered us to fall down 
and worship a golden image ; and that it was as much 
my duty to arrest its execution in every stage, as it would 
have been to have rescued from the fiery furnace those 
who should have been cast into it for refusing to worship 
the image. It was accordingly done in every instance, 
without asking what the offenders had done, or against 
whom they had offended, but whether the pains they 
were suffering were inflicted under the pretended sedi 
tion law. It was certainly possible that my motives for 
contributing to the relief of Callender, and liberating 
sufferers under the sedition law, might have been to pro 
tect, encourage, and reward slander ; but they may also 
have been those which inspire ordinary charities to ob 
jects of distress, meritorious or not, or the obligation of 
an oath to protect the constitution, violated by an unau 
thorized act of Congress. Which of these were my mo 
tives, must be decided by a regard to the general tenor 
of my life. On this I am not afraid to appeal to the na 
tion at large, to posterity, and still less to that Being 
who sees himself our motives, who will judge us from his 
own knowledge of them, and not on the testimony of 

On the subject of religion, it was the policy of the 
president to maintain freedom of thought and speech in 
all the latitude of which the human mind is susceptible, 
and to discountenance by all the means in his power, 
every tendency to predominance and persecution in any 
sect by proscription of the least degree, even in public 

In reply to the solicitation of a very respectable cler 
gyman, for the appointment of a national fast, in con 
formity to the practice of his predecessors, he assigns 
the reasons of his departure from their example in the, 
following words. 

4 1 consider the government of the United States as 
interdicted by the constitution from intermeddling with 
religious institutions, their doctrines, discipline, or exer- 

358 LIFE OF 

cises. This results not only from the provision that no 
law shall be made respecting the establishment or free 
exercise of religion, but from that also which reserves to 
the States the powers not delegated to the United States. 
Certainly, no power to prescribe any religious exercise, 
or to assume authority in religious discipline, has been 
delegated to the general government. It must then rest 
with the States, as far as it can be in any human authori 
ty. But it is only proposed that I should recommend, not 
prescribe, a day of fasting and prayer. That is, that I 
should indirectly assume to the United States an author 
ity over religious exercises, which the constitution has 
directly precluded them from. It must be meant, too, 
that this recommendation is to carry some authority, 
and to be sanctioned by some penalty on those who dis 
regard it ; not indeed of fine and imprisonment, but of 
some degree of proscription, perhaps in public opinion. 
And does the change in the nature of the penalty make 
the recommendation less a law of conduct for those to 
whom it is directed 1 I do not believe it is for the inter 
est of religion to invite the civil magistrate to direct its 
exercises, its discipline, or its doctrines ; nor of the re 
ligious societies, that the general government should be 
invested with the power of effecting any uniformity of 
time or manner among them. Fasting and prayer are 
religious exercises ; the enjoining them an act of disci 
pline. Every religious society has a right to determine 
for itself the times for these exercises, and the objects 
proper for them, according to their own particular tenets ; 
and this right can never be safer than in their own hands, 
where the constitution has deposited it. 

* I am aware that the practice of my predecessors may 
be quoted. But I have ever believed, that the example 
of State executives led to the assumption of that author 
ity by the general government, without due examination, 
which would have discovered that what might be a right 
in a State government, was a violation of that right when 
assumed by another. Be this as it may, every one must 
act according to the dictates of his own reason, and 
mine tells me that civil powers alone have been given to 
the president of the United States, and no authority to 
direct the religious exercises of his constituents. 


With regard to the personal piety of the president, if 
external observances are of any account, it is well known 
that he was a constant and exemplary attendant upon 
public worship ; liberal in contributions to the support of 
the simple religion of Jesus ; but frowning and inflexible 
on all sectarian projects. It is stated with much confi 
dence by a living chronicle* of those times, whose per 
sonal intimacy with the president enabled him to speak 
with authority on the subject, that he contributed to 
found more temples for religion and education than any 
other man of that age. 

The minor traits of Mr Jefferson s administration open 
a range of topics, on which the historian might dwell. 
His simplicity was only equalled by his economy, of 
which he presented an example, in the extinguishment 
of more than thirty-three millions of the public debt. 
The diplomatic agents of foreign governments, on their 
introduction to him, were often embarrassed, and some 
times mortified, at the entire absence of etiquette with 
which they were received. His arrivals at the seat of 
government, and his departures therefrom, were so tim 
ed and conducted as to be unobserved and unattended. 
His inflexibility upon this point, so different from the 
practice of his predecessors, could never be overcome ; 
and he was finally permitted to pursue his own course, 
undisturbed by any manifestations of popular feeling. 
His uniform mode of riding was on horseback, which 
was daily, and always unattended. In one of these sol 
itary excursions, while passing a stream of water he was 
accosted by a feeble beggar, who implored his assistance 
to transport him and his baggage. He immediately 
mounted the beggar behind him and carried him over ; 
on perceiving he had neglected his wallet, he as good 
humoredly recrossed the stream and brought it over to 

* S. H. Smith. 

360 LIFE OF 

Although repeatedly and warmly solicited by his 
friends to make a tour to the North, he never could rec 
oncile it to his feelings of propriety as chief magis 
trate. In a private answer to Governor Sullivan of 
Massachusetts, on the subject, he wrote : The course 
of life which General Washington had run, civil and 
military, the services he had rendered, and the space he 
therefore occupied in the affections of his fellow citizens, 
take from his examples the weight of precedents for 
others, because no others can arrogate to themselves 
the claims which he had on the public homage. To my 
self, therefore, it comes as a new question, to be viewed 
under all the phases it may present. I confess, that I am 
not reconciled to the idea of a chief magistrate parading 
himself through the several States as an object of public 
gaze, and in quest of an applause, which, to be valuable, 
should be purely voluntary. I had rather acquire si 
lent good will by a faithful discharge of my duties, than 
owe expressions of it to my putting myself in the way of 
receiving them. 

He carried his ideas of simplicity to such an extent as 
to deprecate the size of the house allotted to the chief 
magistrate. He thought it should have been turned into a 
University. Nor was it from any sordidness, any insensi 
bility to the charms of elegance, that his frugality, sim 
plicity, and plainness proceeded ; but from a sense of his 
obligations as a public man. Had it been otherwise, he 
might with less propriety have deprecated the size and 
magnificence of his own Monticello, which, in the vari 
ous buildings and rebuildings it underwent at his hands, 
to suit the progress of his taste in the arts, is believed to 
have cost little less than the mansion of the chief mag 
istrate. In his private expenditures, he was indeed lib 
eral to a fault. Humane towards his fellow man, on a 
scale of benevolence which comprehended every dis 
tinction of color and condition, no practicable object of phi 
lanthropy was probably ever presented to him, which he 


did not encourage by bis assistance. But in the immedi 
ate circle of his friends, to whom he was ever devoted, 
his liberality appeared to know no limits. In the profusion 
of presents which he lavished upon them, in the accom 
modations of money with which he succored them un 
der embarrassment, in the hospitality with which he en 
tertained strangers and visitors from every country, and 
in his ordinary habits of living, such evidences of a pri 
vate munificence appeared, as formed a perfect contrast 
with his frugality and simplicity as a public man. 

One other trait of Mr Jefferson, in the discharge of 
his official duties, deserves notice, to wit, his disinter 
estedness. This quality is evident from the fact that 
in all the splendid stations which he occupied, he accu 
mulated nothing ; but retired from each of them much 
poorer than he entered, and from the last and greatest 
station, with hands, to use his own expression, as 
clean as they were empty, indeed, on the very verge 
of bankruptcy. While, in the short interval of eight 
years, he had saved to his country millions and millions 
of dollars, enough to make her rich and free, who was 
before poor and oppressed with taxation ; he, to the im 
mense fortune with which he set out in life, had added 
nothing, but had lost almost every thing. If any farther 
testimony were wanting on this theme, it might be drawn 
from the fact of his having refrained from appointing a 
single relation to office. This was not only true of him 
while president, but in every public station which he fil 
led. Writing to a friend in 1824, he says : * In the course 
of the trusts I have exercised through life with powers 
of appointment, I can say with truth, and with unspeak 
able comfort, that I never did appoint a relation to office, 
and that merely because I never saw the case in which 
some one did not offer, or occur, better qualified. Nor, 
in the multiplied removals and replacements which he 
was compelled to make, did he eject a personal enemy, 
or appoint a personal friend. He felt it his duty to ob 



serve these rules, for reasons expressed in answer to an 
application for office by a relative : That my constitu 
ents may be satisfied, that, in selecting persons for the 
management of their affairs, I am influenced by neither 
personal nor family interests, and especially, that the 
field of public office will not be perverted by me into a 
family property. On this subject, I had the benefit of 
useful lessons from my predecessors, had I needed them, 
marking what was to be imitated and what avoided. 
But, in truth, the nature of our government is lesson 
enough. Its energy depending mainly on the confidence 
of the people in their chief magistrate, makes it his duty 
to spare nothing which can strengthen him with that 

In the crowd of official occupations which devolve on 
the executive magistrate, Mr Jefferson found time to ac 
complish a succession of private labors and enterprises 
which would have been enough of themselves to have 
exhausted the ordinary measure of application and tal 
ent. A simple enumeration of the topics on which his 
leisure moments were employed, will suffice to exhibit 
the extent of his efforts for the improvement and happi 
ness of the nation. Regular essays abound in his cor 
respondence during this period, on physics, law and 
medicine ; on natural history, particularly as connect 
ed with the aborgines of America ; on maxims for the 
regulation and improvement of our moral conduct, ad 
dressed to young men ; on agriculture, navigation, and 
manufactures ; on politics and political parties, science, 
history and religion. In some of those intervals when 
he could justifiably abstract himself from the public af 
fairs, his meditations turned upon the subject of Chris 
tianity. He had some years before promised his views 
of the Christian religion to Dr Rush, with whom, and 
with Dr Priestley, he was in habits of intercommunica 
tion on the subject. The more he reflected upon it, the 
more he confessed, it expanded beyond the measure of 


either his time or information. But he availed himself 
of a day or two, while on the road to Monticello, in 1803, 
to digest in his mind a comprehensive outline, entitled, 
A Syllabus of an estimate of the merit of the doctrine 
of Jesus, compared with those of others. This he af 
terwards wrote out and forwarded to Dr Rush, in dis 
charge of his promise, but under a strict injunction of 
secrecy, to avoid the torture, as he expressed himself, 
of seeing it disembowelled by the Aruspices of modern 
Paganism. It embraced a comparative view of the eth 
ics of Christianity with those of Judaism, and of ancient 
philosophy under its most esteemed authors ; particular 
ly Pithagoras, Socrates, Epicurus, Cicero, Epictetus, 
Seneca, Antoninus. The result was, such a development 
of the immeasurable superiority of the doctrine of Chris 
tianity, that he declared its Author had presented to the 
world a system of morals, which, if filled up in the style 
and spirit of the rich fragments he has left us, would be 
the most perfect and sublime that has ever been taught 
by man. Space can only be spared for the conclusions 
he arrived at, which were all on the side of Christianity. 
They are the result, says he, of a life of inquiry and 
reflection, and very different from that anti-christian 
system imputed tome by those who know nothing of my 
opinions. The question of the divinity, or inspiration 
of Christ, being foreign to his purpose, did not enter in 
to the estimate. 

1. He [ Jesus ] corrected the deism of the Jews, con 
firming them in their belief of one only God, and giving 
them juster notions of his attributes and government. 

2. His moral doctrines, relating to kindred and 
friends, were more pure and perfect than those of the 
most correct of the philosophers, and greatly more so 
than those of the Jews ; and they went far beyond both in 
inculcating universal philanthropy, not only to kindred 
and friends, to neighbors and countrymen, but to all 
mankind, gathering all into one family, under the bonds 

364 LIFE OF 

of love, charity, peace, common wants, and common aids. 
A development of this head will evince the peculiar su 
periority of the system of Jesus over all others. 

3. The precepts of philosophy, and of the Hebrew 
code, laid hold of actions only. He pushed his scrutinies 
into the heart of man ; erected his tribunal in the region 
of his thoughts, and purified the waters at the fountain 

4. He taught, emphatically, the doctrine of a future 
state, which was either doubted or disbelieved by the 
Jews ; and wielded it with efficacy, as an important in 
centive, supplementary to the other motives to moral 

The president was in habits of frequent communica 
tion with the fraternity of literary men spread over 
Europe ; and with the various societies instituted for 
benevolent or useful purposes, particularly the Agri 
cultural Society of Paris, and the Board of Agricul 
ture of London, of both of which he was a member. He 
was indefatigable in endeavoring to obtain the useful 
discoveries of these societies, as they occurred, and in 
communicating to them in return, those of the western 
hemisphere. He imported from France at his own ex 
pense, two flocks of Merino sheep, among the first in 
troduced into this country with a variety of new inven 
tions in the agricultural and mechanic arts, and new 
articles of culture, which have since become of general 
use in the United States. He transmitted to the Society 
of Paris, in return, several tierces of South Carolina rice, 
for cultivation in France ; and to the Board of Agricul 
ture of London, several barrels of the genuine May wheat 
of Virginia. Some of these exportations happened during 
the restraints of the embargo, and, on its getting into 
the newspapers, excited a ridiculous uproar against the 
president. His correspondence with the eminent phi 
lanthropists of Europe, particularly on the subject of 
vaccination, at the epoch of the first intelligence of its 
discovery ; his efforts for introducing it into this country, 


against the weight of scepticism and ridicule which it 
encountered ; and his subsequent correspondence with 
Dr Waterhouse and others, mingled with experimental 
exertions for establishing and propagating its efficacy, 
are among the standing monuments of his perseverance 
in the general cause of humanity, while at the head of the 

The plan of colonizing the free people of color, in 
some place remote from the United States, originated 
with Mr Jefferson, at an early period ; and on coming 
into the office of president he prosecuted the enterprise 
with renewed energy. A correspondence was opened 
between him and Mr Monroe, then governor of Virginia ; 
and the first formal proceeding on the subject was made 
in the Virginia legislature, soon afterwards, to wit, about 
the year 1803. The purpose of his correspondence with 
Mr Monroe, is explained in a letter from him about ten 
years afterwards, and published in the first annual re 
port of the Colonization Society. He proposed to gain 
admittance for the free people of color, into the establish 
ment at Sierra Leone, which then belonged to a private 
company in England ; or in failure of that, to procure a 
situation in some of the Portuguese settlements in South 
America. He wrote to Mr King, then our minister in 
London, to apply to the Sierra Leone Company. The 
application was made, but without success, on the ground 
that the company w r as about to dissolve and relinquish 
its possessions to the government. An attempt to nego 
tiate with the Portuguese governor was equally abortive, 
which suspended all active measures for a time. But 
the enterprise was kept alive by Mr Jefferson, who by 
his impressive admonitions of its importance, held the 
legislature of Virginia firm to its purpose. The subject 
was from time to time discussed in that body, till in the 
year 1816 a formal resolution was passed almost unani 
mously, being but a repetition of certain resolutions 
which had been adopted in secret session at three dis- 

366 LIFE OF 

tinct antecedent periods. It was truly the feeling and 
voice of Virginia, which was followed by the States of 
Maryland, Tennessee and Georgia. Colonization socie 
ties were then for the first time formed.* 

In the catalogue of unofficial services, the improve 
ments which Mr Jefferson bestowed upon the national 
metropolis, are not among the least engaging. Almost 
every thing that is beautiful in the artificial scenery of 
Washington, is due to his taste and industry. He plant 
ed its walks with trees, and strewed its gardens with 
flowers. He was rarely seen returning from his daily 
excursions on horseback, without bringing some branch 
of tree, or shrub, or bunch of flowers, for the embellish 
ment of the infant capital. He was familiar with every 
tree and plant, from the oak of the forest, to the lowli 
est flower of the valley. The willow-oak was among his 
favorite trees ; and he was often seen standing on his 
horse to gather the acorns from this trqe. He was pre 
paring to raise a nursery of them, which, when large 
enough to give shade, should be made to adorn the walks 
of all the avenues in the city. In the mean time, he 
planted them with the Lombardy poplar, being of the 
most sudden growth, contented that, though he could not 
enjoy their shade, his successors would. Those who 
have stood on the western portico of the capitol, and 
looked down the long avenue of a [mile in length to the 
president s house, have been struck with the beautiful 
colonnade of trees which adorns the whole distance on 
either side. These were all planted under the direction 
of Mr Jefferson, who often joined in the task with his 
own hands. He always lamented the spirit of extermi 
nation which had swept off the noble forest trees that 
overspread Capitol Hill, extending down to the banks of 
the Tiber, and the shores of the Potomac. He would 
have converted the grounds into extensive parks and 

* N. A. Review, vol. 18, p. 41. 


gardens. The loss is irreparable, said he to an Euro 
pean traveller, nor can the evil be prevented. When 
I have seen such depredations, I have wished for a mo 
ment to be a despot, that, in the possession of absolute 
power, I might enforce the preservation of these valua 
ble groves. Washington might have boasted one of the 
noblest parks, and most beautiful malls, attached to any 
city in the world. 

Such are a few of the private efforts arid enterprises 
which Mr Jefferson intermingled with the discharge of 
his public avocations. They were performed too, witfy- 
out any neglect of the sweets of social intercourse, or of 
literary occupation, which ever constituted the predomi 
nant passions of his soul. A regular portion of every 
day was devoted to the acquisition of science ; and the 
most liberal portions, to the reception of company. The 
facility with which he discharged these draughts upon 
his attention, amidst the complication of public and ne 
cessary duties, was wont to excite the astonishment of 
those who visited him. The impression produced by his 
notice of a remark of a visitor, dropped in the freedom 
of conversation and expressive of surprise at his being 
able to transact th*e public business, amidst such numer 
ous interruptions, is well remembered to this day by those 
who heard it. Sir, said Mr Jefferson, I have made 
it a rule, since I have been in public life, never to let the 
sun rise before me, and, before I breakfasted, to trans 
act all the business called for by the day. Much of the 
ease with which he acquitted himself under such an ac 
cumulation of engagements, is ascribable to his industry 
and versatility of practical talent ; but more perhaps to 
system, and a methodical arrangement of time. So 
exact were his habits of order, that in a cabinet over- 
burthened with papers, every one was so labelled and 
arranged, as to be capable of access in a moment. 

Mr Jefferson had long contemplated the approach of 
the happy day, which was to relieve him from the dis- 

368 LIFE OP 

tressing burthen of power, and restore him to the en 
joyment of his family, his books, and his farm. Soon 
after the commencement of his second term, he had re 
quested his fellow citizens to think of a successor for 
him, to whom he declared he should deliver the public 
concerns with greater joy than he received them. Mr 
Madison was evidently his first choice, MrMonroe his sec 
ond ; but as the public sentiment appeared at first to show 
some symptoms of vacillation between them, he abstain 
ed from any agency in deciding its final direction ; not 
oaly from a principle of duty, but from a desire to carry 
into his retirement the equal cordiality of those, whom 
he fondly characterized as two principal pillars of his 
happiness. His wishes were successively ratified by the 
nation, in its successive choices ; and their respective 
administrations, particularly that of Mr Madison, were 
so conformable to his own in principle and in spirit, that 
they seemed but a continuation of power in the same 
hands. When a distinguished French citizen, who had 
visited our country under the sway of this policy, return 
ed to France, one of the first questions which Bonaparte 
asked him, was, What kind of a government is that of 
the United States ? It is one, Sir, he replied, which 
you can neither feel nor see. The First Consul asked 
no more questions ; feeling, that such a panegyric on 
this government, was the severest satire on his. 

The voice of the nation was strong and importunate 
for a re-election of Mr Jefferson, but he rejected the al 
lurement, in inflexible adherence to a principle which he 
wished to become as inviolable as if incorporated into 
the constitution. Not only principle, but the strongest 
of inclinations dictated to him such a course. If there 
was any one sentiment, next to the love of country, 
which was now uppermost in the breast of Mr Jefferson, 
it was that of his familiar assertion, * that he never felt 
so happy as when shifting power from his own shoulders 
upon those of another. The impatience with which he 


anticipated the appointed epoch, and the satisfaction 
with which he saluted its arrival are expressed in vari 
ous letters to his friends. 

1 1 have tired you, my friend, with a long letter. But 
your tedium will end in a few lines more. Mine has 
yet two years to endure. I am tired of an office where I 
can do no more good than many others, who would be 
glad to be employed in it. To myself, personally, it 
brings nothing but unceasing drudgery, and daily loss 
of friends. Every office becoming vacant, every ap 
pointment made, me donne un ingrat, et cent ennemis. 
My only consolation is in the belief, that my fellow citi 
zens at large give me credit for good intentions. I will 
certainly endeavor to merit the continuance of that good 
will which follows well intended actions, and their ap 
probation will be the dearest reward I can carry into re 

At the end of my present term, of which two years 
are yet to come, I propose to retire from public life, and 
to close my days on my patrimony of Monticello, in the 
bosom of my family. I have hitherto enjoyed uniform 
health ; but the weight of public business begins to be 
too heavy for me, and I long for the enjoyment of rural 
life, among my books, my farms, and my family. Hav 
ing performed my quadragena stipendia, I am entitled to 
my discharge, and should be sorry, indeed, that others 
should be sooner sensible than myself when I ought to 
ask it. 

1 Within a few days I retire to my family, my books 
and farms ; and having gained the harbor myself, I shall 
look on my friends still buffeting the storm, with anxiety 
indeed, but not with envy. Never did a prisoner, re 
leased from his chains, feel such relief as I shall on sha 
king off the shackles of power. Nature intended me for 
the tranquil pursuits of science, by rendering them my 
supreme delight. But the enormities of the times in 
which I have lived, have forced me to take a part in re 
sisting them, and to commit myself on the boisterous 
ocean of political passions. I thank God for the oppor 
tunity of retiring from them without censure, and carry- 

370 LIFE OP 

ing with me the most consoling proofs of public appro 
bation. I leave every thing in the hands of men so able 
to take care of them, that if we are destined to meet 
misfortunes, it will be because no human wisdom could 
avert them. Should you return to the United States, 
perhaps your curiosity may lead you to visit the hermit 
of Monticello. He will receive you with affection and 
delight ; hailing you in the mean time with his affection 
ate salutations, and assurances of constant esteem and 


In the spring of 1809, Mr Jefferson made his last re 
treat to the hermitage of Monticello. He retired from 
a forty years possession of accumulative honors, and 
from the summit of human popularity, with a mind un 
shaken in its principles, with the same jealousy of pow 
er, the same love of equality and abhorrence of aristoc 
racy, and the same unbounded confidence in the major 
ity of the people. He was sixty-six years old. At the 
same age, a singular coincidence, have all the other 
chief magistrates retired from office Washington, Ad 
ams, Madison, Monroe except the younger Adams, 
who wanted but the ordinary term of service to complete 
the same number of years. 

He was accompanied into retirement with the plaudits 
and benedictions of his grateful countrymen. Addres 
ses upon addresses, public and private, by political as 
semblies, religious associations, and literary institutions, 
were showered upon him, expressive of approbation of 
his conduct in the administration of the government, 
and containing prayers for his future tranquillity and 
happiness. To the citizens of Washington who assem 
bled to pay him a farewell tribute of their affection, he 
replied : I receive with peculiar gratification the affec 
tionate address of the citizens of Washington, and in 
the patriotic sentiments it expresses, I see the true char 
acter of the national metropolis. The station which we 
occupy among the nations of the earth, is honorable, but 


awful. Trusted with the destinies of this solitary repub 
lic"^ the world, the only monument of human rights, 
and the sole depository of the sacred fire of freedom and 
self government, from hence it is to be lighted up in oth 
er regions of the earth, if other regions of the earth shall 
ever become susceptible of its genial influence. All 
mankind ought, then, with us, to rejoice in its prosper 
ous, and sympathize in its adverse fortunes, as involving 
every thing dear to man. And to what sacrifices of in 
terest, or convenience, ought not these considerations to 
animate us ! To what compromises of opinion and in 
clination, to maintain harmony and union among our 
selves, and to preserve from all danger this hallowed 
ark of human hope and happiness ! That differences of 
opinion should arise among men, on politics, on religion, 
and on every other topic of human enquiry, and that 
these should be freely expressed in a country where all 
our faculties are free, is to be expected. But these val 
uable privileges are much perverted when permitted to 
disturb the harmony of social intercourse, and to lessen 
the tolerance of opinion. To the honor of society here 
it has been characterized by a just and generous liberal 
ity ; and an indulgence of those affections, which, with 
out regard to political creeds, constitute the happiness 
of life. 

The inhabitants of his native county, Albemarle, were 
eager for the occasion to testify those emotions of grati 
tude and affection, which they felt for their illustrious 
neighbor and friend ; and to welcome him to those 
sweets of retirement for which he had so often sighed. 
With this view, they formed the determination at a pub 
lic meeting to receive him in a body at the extremity of 
the county, and conduct him home. Fearful, however, 
lest the zeal of friendship might inflict a wound on his 
characteristic modesty, they previously submitted to him 
their intention. In reply, he expressed his wish, that 
* his neighbors would not take so much trouble on his 

372 LIFE OF 

account. The idea was accordingly relinquished. But 
at a subsequent meeting of the inhabitants of the county, 
an address was unanimously adopted, and ordered to be 
presented to him, in which they added to the general 
gratulations of the nation, their particular sensations 
of respect, in the most affecting terms. As individu 
als, it concluded, among whom you were raised, and 
to whom you have at all times been dear, we again wel 
come your return to your native county, to the bosom of 
your family, and to the affections of those neighbors who 
have long known, and have long revered you in private 
life. We assure you, sir, we are not insensible to the 
many sacrifices you have already made, to the various 
stations which have been assigned you by your country ; 
we have witnessed your disinterestedness, and while we 
feel the benefits of your past services, it would be more 
than ingratitude in us, did we not use our best efforts to 
make your latter days as tranquil and as happy, as your 
former have been bright and glorious. 

To this address Mr Jefferson returned the following 

Returning to the scenes of my birth and early life, 
to the society of those with whom I was raised, and who 
have been ever dear to me, I receive, fellow citizens 
and neighbors, with inexpressible pleasure, the cordial 
welcome you are so good as to give me. Long absent 
on -duties which the history of a wonderful era made in 
cumbent on those called to them, the pomp, the turmoil, 
the bustle, and splendor of office, have drawn but deeper 
sighs for the tranquil and irresponsible occupations of 
private life, for the enjoyment of an affectionate inter 
course with you, my neighbors and friends, and the en 
dearments of family love, which nature has given us all, 
as the sweetener of every hour. For these I gladly lay 
down the distressing burthen of power, and seek, with 
my fellow citizens, repose and safety under the watchful 
cares, the labors, and perplexities of younger and abler 
minds. The anxieties you express to administer to my 
happiness, do, of themselves, confer that happiness ; arid 


the measure will be complete, if my endeavors to fulfil 
my duties in the several public stations to which I have 
been called, have obtained for me the approbation of my 
country. The part which I have acted on the theatre of 
public life, has been before them ; and to their sentence I 
submit it : but the testimony of my native county, of the 
individuals who have known me in private life, to my 
conduct in its various duties and relations, is the more 
grateful, as proceeding from eye witnesses and observ 
ers, from triers of the vicinage. Of you, then, my neigh 
bors, I may ask, in the face of the world, Whose ox 
have I taken, or whom have I defrauded ? Whom have 
I oppressed, or of whose hand have I received a bribe 
to blind mine eyes therewith T On your verdict I rest 
with conscious security. Your wishes for my happiness 
are received with just sensibility, and I offer sincere 
prayers for your own welfare and prosperity. 

Among the numerous testimonials of the public grati 
tude elicited on this occasion, the valedictory address 
of the general assembly of Virginia is deservedly the 
most distinguished. It is too rich a document intrinsically, 
and too proudly associated with the reputation of him 
whose merits it was intended to commemorate, not to be 
preserved. It was agreed to by both houses on the 7th 
of February, 1809. 

Sir, The general assembly of your native State 
cannot close their session, without acknowledging your 
services in the office which you are just about to lay 
down, and bidding you a respectful and affectionate 

We have to thank you for the model of an adminis 
tration conducted on the purest principles of republican 
ism ; for pomp and state laid aside ; patronage discard 
ed ; internal taxes abolished ; a host of superfluous offi 
cers disbanded ; the monarchic maxim that a national 
debt is a national blessing, renounced, and more than 
thirty-three millions of our debt discharged; the native 
right to nearly one hundred millions of acres of our na 
tional domain extinguished ; and without the guilt or ca 
lamities of conquest, a vast and fertile region added to 

374 LIFE OF 

our country, far more extensive than her original pos 
sessions, bringing along with it the Mississippi and the 
port of Orleans, the trade of the West to the Pacific 
ocean, and in the intrinsic value of the land itself, a 
source of permanent and almost inexhaustible revenue. 
These are points in your administration which the his 
torian will not fail to seize, to expand, and teach pos 
terity to dwell upon with delight. Nor will he forget 
our peace with the civilized world, preserved through a 
season of uncommon difficulty and trial ; the good will 
cultivated with the unfortunate aborigines of our coun 
try, and the civilization humanely extended among them; 
the lesson taught the inhabitants of the coast of Barbary, 
that we have the means of chastising their piratical en 
croachments, and awing them into justice ; and that 
theme, on which, above all others, the historic genius 
will hang with rapture, the liberty of speech and of the 
press, preserved inviolate, without which genius and 
science are given to man in vain. 

In the principles on which you have administered the 
government, we see only the continuation and maturity 
of the same virtues and abilities, which drew upon you 
in your youth the resentment of Dunmore. From the 
first brilliant and happy moment of your resistance to 
foreign tyranny, until the present day, we mark with 
pleasure and with gratitude the same uniform, consistent 
character, the same warm and devoted attachment to 
liberty and the republic, the same Roman Jove of your 
country, her rights, her peace, her honor, her pros 

* How blessed will be the retirement into which you 
are about to go ! How deservedly blessed will it be ! For 
you carry with you the richest of all rewards, the recol 
lection of a life well spent in the service of your coun 
try, and proofs the most decisive, of the love, the grati 
tude, the veneration of your countrymen. 

4 That your retirement may be as happy as your life 
has been virtuous and useful ; that our youth may see, 
in the blissful close of your days, an additional induce 
ment to form themselves on your model, is the devout 
and earnest prayer of your fellow-citizens who compose 
the general assembly of Virginia. 


Thus terminated the political career of one who had 
been a principal agent of two revolutions, and an eye 
witness of a third ; of one who, from his entrance into 
manhood, had continued the advocate of principles, 
which, first discarded, next endured, then embraced, had 
eventually swayed the destinies of his country through 
the perilous and successive convulsions of transforma 
tion from a monarchical to a free structure of govern 
ment, and of deliverance from the fatal catastrophe of a 
counter-revolution, in the last extremities of exhaustion, 
despair, and self-abandonment ; who had lived to see 
the energies of those principles so extensively transfused 
into the very sycophants of the tyrants of the old world, 
temporal and spiritual, as that the earth was every where 
shaking under their feet ; and who, at last, enjoyed the 
satisfaction of seeing his name become the synonym of 
political orthodoxy at home, and the watch-word of the 
aspirants for its attainment, in all parts of the civilized 

1 Bright are the memories link d with thee, 

BOAST of a glory-hallowed land, 

HOPE of the valiant and the free. 

Thus had he performed his -distinguished course, and 
thus, full of years and covered with glory, he was ready 
as to all political affairs, to utter his favorite invocation : 
Nunc dimittas, Domine Lord, now lettest thou thy 
servant depart in peace. 

376 LIFE OF 


IN repairing with so much eagerness to the shades of 
his native mountains, it seems not to have entered the 
mind of Mr Jefferson to relax his efforts for the benefit 
of mankind, but to divert them into another channel. 
His whole life, he was in the habit of remarking, had 
been at war with his natural taste, feelings and wishes. 
Circumstances had led him along, step by step, the path 
he had trodden. 

His was not the retirement of one who sought refuge 
from the pangs of disappointed ambition, and the world s 
mockery of them, in the resource of oblivion and stoical 
insensibility ; or who coveted repose from the turbulence 
of the scene, to indulge in indolence. No. his was the 
voluntary seclusion of one, who, as it has been beauti 
fully said, * had well filled a noble part in public life, 
from which he was prepared and anxious to withdraw ; 
who sought retirement to gratify warm affections, and to 
enjoy his well earned fame ; who desired to turn those 
thoughts which had been necessarily restrained and 
limited, to the investigation of all the sources of human 
happiness and enjoyment; who felt himself surrounded, 
in his fellow citizens, by a circle of affectionate friends, 
and had not to attribute to a rude expulsion from the 
theatre of ambition, his sincere devotion to the pursuits 
of agriculture and philosophy ; and who, receiving to the 
last moment of his existence continued proofs of admi 
ration and regard, which penetrated his remote retire 
ment, devoted the remainder of his days to record those 


various reflections for which the materials had been col 
lected and treasured up, unknown to himself, on the long 
and various voyage of his life. 

In the possession of undecayed intellectual powers, 
and a physical strength unsubdued by the labors which 
* the history of a wonderful era had made incumbent on 
him, he devoted the remnant of his days to unlocking all 
the store-houses of knowledge, and dispensing their treas 
ures to the generation who had succeeded him on the 
theatre of public affairs ; and to laying the foundations 
for the still greater extension of science by the estab 
lishment of a seminary of learning which sheuld rival 
the institutions of Cambridge and Oxford. 

To give a few choice selections from his cabinet, de 
veloping the OPINIONS of the Monticellian philosopher, 
on questions interesting and important to mankind, and 
which have not yet been brought into special review; 
his observations on the distinguished characters with 
whom he acted or came in contact, in the course of his 
career; on the parties and political occurrences of the 
passing day ; his daily occupations and habits of living 
all expressed in the freedom of private and unrestrain 
ed confidence, seems the most satisfactory method of 
supplying that portion of his history, for which the ma 
terials are of too abstract a nature to be adapted to his 
torical narrative. The quotations must be necessarily 
limited, but possess great interest and value. 

look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence, and 
deem them like the ark of the covenant, too sacred to 
be touched. They ascribe to the men of the preceding 
age a wisdom more than human, and suppose what they 
did to be beyond amendment. I knew that age well ; 
I belonged to it, and labored with it. It deserved well 
of its country. It was very like the present, but without 
the experience of the present ; and forty years of ex 
perience in government is worth a century of book read 
ing : and this they would say themselves were they to 



rise from the dead. We had not yet penetrated to the 
mother principle, that governments are republican only 
in proportion as they embody the will of their people, 
and execute it. Hence, our first constitutions had really 
no leading principle in them. Though we may say with 
confidence, that the worst of the American constitutions 
is better than the best which ever existed before in 
any other country, and they are wonderfully perfect for 
a first essay, yet every human essay must have defects. 
It will remain therefore to those now coming on the 
stage of public affairs to perfect what has been so well 
begun by those going off it. I am certainly not an ad 
vocate for frequent and untried changes in laws and con 
stitutions. I think moderate imperfections had better be 
borne with ; because, when once known, we accommo 
date ourselves to them, and find practical means of cor 
recting their ill effects. But I know, also, that laws and 
institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of 
the human mind. As that becomes more developed, 
more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new 
truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with 
the change of circumstances, institutions must advance 
also, and keep pace with the times. We might as well 
require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him 
when a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the 
regimen of their barbarous ancestors. It is this prepos 
terous idea which has lately deluged Europe in blood. 
Their monarchs, instead of wisely yielding to the gradual 
changes of circumstances, of favoring progressive ac 
commodation to progressive improvement, have clung to 
old abuses, entrenched themselves behind steady habits, 
and obliged their subjects to seek through blood and vio 
lence, rash and ruinous innovations, which, had they been 
referred to the peaceful deliberations and collected wis 
dom of the nation, would have been put into acceptable 
and salutary forms. Let us follow no such examples, 
nor weakly believe that one generation is not as capable 
as another of taking care of itself, and of ordering its 
own affairs. Let us avail ourselves of our reason and 
experience, to correct the crude essays of our first and 
unexperienced, although wise, virtuous, and well mean 
ing councils. And, lastly, let us provide in our constitu- 


tion for its revision at stated periods. What these pe 
riods should be, nature herself indicates. By the Euro 
pean tables of mortality, of the adults living at any one 
moment of time, a majority will be dead in about nine 
teen years. At the end of that period, then, a new ma 
jority is come into place ; or, in other words, a new 
generation. Each generation is as independent of the 
one preceding, as that was of all which had gone before. 
It has, then, like them, a right to choose for itself the 
form of government it believes most promotive of its 
own happiness ; consequently, to accommodate to the 
circumstances in which it finds itself, that received from 
its predecessors : and it is for the peace and good of 
mankind, that a solemn opportunity of doing this every 
nineteen or twenty years, should be provided by the con 
stitution ; so that it may be handed on, with periodical 
repairs, from generation to generation, to the end of 
time, if any thing human can so long endure. It is now 
forty years since the constitution of Virginia was form 
ed. The same tables inform us, that, within that period, 
two thirds of the adults then living are now dead. Have 
then the remaining third, even if they had the wish, the 
right to hold in obedience to their will, and to laws here 
tofore made by them, the other two thirds, who, with 
themselves, compose the present mass of adults ? If they 
have not, who has ? The dead 1 But the dead have no 
rights. They are nothing ; and nothing cannot own 
something. Where there is no substance, there can be 
no accident. This corporeal globe and every thing upon 
it, belong to its present corporeal inhabitants, during their 
generation. They alone have aright to direct what is the 
concern of themselves alone, and to declare the law of 
that direction : and this declaration can only be made 
by their majority. That majority, then, has a right to 
depute representatives to a convention, and to make the 
constitution what they think will be best for themselves. 
* * If this avenue be shut to the call of sufferance, it 
will make itself heard through that of force, and we shall 
go on, as other nations are doing, in the endless circle 
of oppression, rebellion, reformation ; and oppression, 
rebellion, reformation, again ; and so on, for ever. 

380 LIFE OP 

ERNMENTS. With respect to our State and federal 
governments, I do not think their relations correctly un 
derstood by foreigners. They generally suppose the 
former subordinate to the latter. But this is not the 
case. They are co-ordinate departments of one simple 
and integral whole. To the State governments are re 
served all legislation and administration, in affairs which 
concern their own citizens only, and to the federal 
government is given whatever concerns foreigners, or 
the citizens of other States ; these functions alone being 
made federal. The one is the domestic, the other the 
foreign branch of the same government ; neither having 
control over the other, but within its own department. 
There are one or two exceptions only to this partition 
of power. But you may ask, if the two departments 
should claim each the same subject of power, where is 
the common umpire to decide ultimately between them ? 
In cases of little importance or urgency, the prudence of 
both parties will keep them aloof from the questionable 
ground : but if it can neither be avoided nor compromis 
ed, a convention of the States must be called, to ascribe 
the doubtful power to that department which they may 
think best. 

GOVERNMENT. You seem to think it devolved on the 
judges to decide on the validity of the sedition law. But 
nothing in the constitution has given them a right to de 
cide for the executive, more than to the executive to de 
cide for them. Both magistracies are equally independ 
ent in the sphere of action assigned to them. The judges, 
believing the law constitutional, had a right to pass a 
sentence of fine and imprisonment ; because the power 
was placed in their hands by the constitution. But the 
executive, believing the law to be unconstitutional, were 
bound to remit the execution of it ; because that power 
has been confided to them by the constitution. That in 
strument meant that its co-ordinate branches should be 
checks on each other. But the opinion which gives to 
the judges the right to decide what laws are constitu 
tional, and what not, not only for themselves in their 
own sphere of action, but for the legislature and execu- 


live also in their spheres, would make the judiciary a 
despotic branch. 

* If this opinion be sound, then indeed is our constitu 
tion a complete felo de se. For intending to establish 
three departments, co-ordinate and independent, that 
they might check and balance one another, it has given, 
according to this opinion, to one of them alone, the right 
to prescribe rules for the government of the others, and 
to that one too, which is unelected by, and independent 
of the nation. For experience has already shown that 
the impeachment it has provided is not even a scare 
crow ; that such opinions as the one you combat, sent 
cautiously out, as you observe also, by detachment, not 
belonging to the case often, but sought for out of it, as 
if to rally the public opinion beforehand to their views, 
and to indicate the line they are to walk in, have been 
so quietly passed over as never to have excited animad 
version, even in a speech of any one of the body entrust 
ed with impeachment. The constitution, on this hypo 
thesis, is a mere thing of wax in the hands of the judi 
ciary, which they may twist and shape into any form 
they please. It should be remembered, as an axiom of 
eternal truth in politics, that whatever power in any gov 
ernment is independent, is absolute also ; in theory on 
ly, at first, while the spirit of the people is up, but in 
practice, as fast as that relaxes. Independence can be 
trusted no where but with the people in mass. They 
are inherently independent of all but moral law. 

TIONS, &c. You will have learned that an act for in 
ternal improvement, after passing both houses, was neg 
atived by the president [1817.] The act was founded, 
avowedly, on the principle that the phrase in the consti 
tution, which authorises.Congress to levy taxes, to pay 
the debts, and provide for the general welfare, was an 
extension of the powers specifically enumerated to what 
ever would promote the general welfare ; and this, you 
know, was the federal doctrine. Whereas, our tenet 
ever was, and, indeed, it is almost the only land-mark 
which now divides the federalists from the republicans, 
that Congress had not unlimited powers to provide for 
the general welfare, but were restrained to those specifi- 



cally enumerated ; and that, as it was never meant they 
should provide for that welfare but by the exercise of the 
enumerated powers, so it could not have been meant 
they should raise money for purposes which the enumer 
ation did not place under their action : consequently, 
that the specification of powers is a limitation of the 
purposes for which they may raise money. I think the 
passage and rejection of this bill a fortunate incident. 
Every State will certainly concede the power ; and this 
will be a national confirmation of the grounds of appeal 
to them, and will settle for ever the meaning of this 
phrase, which, by a mere grammatical quibble, has 
countenanced the general government in a claim of uni 
versal power. 7 

DOMESTIC MANUFACTURES. I have now thirty five 
spindles a going, a hand carding-machine, and looms 
with the flying shuttle, for the supply of my own farms, 
which will never be relinquished in my time. The con 
tinuance of the war will fix the habit generally, and out of 
the evils of impressment and of the orders of council, a 
great blessing for us will grow. I have not formerly 
been an advocate for great manufactories. I doubted 
whether our labor, employed in agriculture, and aided 
by the spontaneous energies of the earth, would not pro 
cure us more than we could make ourselves of other ne 
cessaries. But other considerations entering into the 
question, have settled my doubts. 

You tell me I am quoted by those who wish to con 
tinue our dependance on England for our manufactures. 
There was a time when I might have been so quoted 
with more candor. But within the thirty years which 
have since elapsed, how are circumstances changed ! 
We were then in peace ; our independent place among 
nations was acknowledged. A commerce which offered 
the raw material, in exchange for the same material af 
ter receiving the last touch of industry, was worthy of 
welcome to all nations. It was expected, that those es 
pecially to whom manufacturing industry was impor 
tant, would cherish the friendship of such customers by 
every favor, and particularly cultivate their peace by 
every act of justice and friendship. Under this prospect, 


the question seemed legitimate, whether, with such an 
immensity of unimproved land, courting the hand of 
husbandry, the industry of agriculture, or that of manu 
factures, would add most to the national wealth. And the 
doubt on the utility of the American manufactures was en 
tertained on this consideration, chiefly, that to the labor 
of the husbandman, a vast addition is made by the spon 
taneous energies of the earth on which it is employed. 
For one grain o/ wheat committed to the earth, she ren 
ders twenty, thirty, and even fifty fold ; whereas to the 
labor of the manufacturer nothing is added. Pounds of 
flax, in his hands, on the contrary, yield but penny 
weights of lace. This exchange, too, laborious as it 
might^seem, what a field did it promise for the occupation 
of the ocean ; what a nursery for that class of citizens 
who were to exercise and maintain our equal rights on 
that element ! This was the state of things in 1785, 
when the Notes on Virginia were first published ; when, 
the ocean being open to all nations, and their common 
right in it acknowledged and exercised under regula 
tions sanctioned by the assent and usage of all, it was 
thought that the doubt might claim some consideration. 
We have since experienced, what we did not then be 
lieve, that there exist both profligacy and power enough 
to exclude us from the field of interchange with other 
nations. That to be independent for the comforts of 
life, we must fabricate them ourselves. We must now 
place the manufacturer by the side of the agriculturist. 
The former question is suppressed, or rather assumes a 
new form. The grand inquiry now is, Shall we make 
our own comforts, or go without them at the will of a 
foreign nation 1 He, therefore, who is now against do 
mestic manufacture, must be for reducing us either to 
depen dance on that foreign nation, or to be clothed in 
skins, and to live like wild beasts in dens and caverns. 
I am not one of these. Experience has taught me that 
manufactures are now as necessary to our independence 
as to our comfort, 

stances have long since produced an overcharge in the 
class of competitors for learned occupation, and great 
distress among the supernumerary candidates ; and the 

384 LIFE OF 

more, as their habits of life have disqualified them for 
re-entering- into the laborious class. The evil cannot be 
suddenly, nor perhaps ever entirely cured : nor should I 
presume to say by what means it may be cured. Doubt 
less there are many engines which the nation might bring 
to bear on this object. Public opinion and public encour 
agement are among these. The class principally defec 
tive is that of agriculture. It is the first in utility, and 
ought to be the first in respect. The same artificial 
means which have been used to produce a competition 
in learning, may be equally successful in restoring agri 
culture to its primary dignity in the eyes of men. It is 
a science of the very first order. It counts among its 
handmaids the most respectable sciences, such as che 
mistry, natural philosophy, mechanics, mathematics gen 
erally, natural history, botany. In every college and 
university, a professorship of agriculture, and the class 
of its students, might be honored as the first. Young 
men closing their academical education with this, as the 
crown of all other sciences, fascinated with its solid 
charms, and at a time when they are to choose an occu 
pation, instead of crowding the other classes, would re 
turn to the farms of their fathers, their own, or those of 
others, and replenish and invigorate a calling, now lan 
guishing under contempt and oppression. The charita 
ble schools, instead of storing their pupils with a lore 
which the present slate of society does not call for, con 
verted into schools of agriculture, might restore them to 
that branch, qualified to enrich and honor themselves, 
and to increase the productions of the nation instead of 
consuming them. A gradual abolition of the useless 
offices, so much accumulated in all governments, might 
close this drain also from the labors of the field, and 
lessen the burthens imposed on them. By these, and the 
better means which will occur to others, the surcharge 
of the learned, .might in time be drawn off to recruit the 
laboring class of citizens, the sum of industry be in 
creased, and that of misery diminished. 

NATIONAL BANK. From a passage in the letter of 
tlie president, I observe an idea of establishing a branch 
bank of the United States in New Orleans. This insti 
tution is one of the most deadly hostility existing, against 


the principles and form of our constitution. The nation 
is, at this time, so strong and united in its sentiments, 
that it cannot be shaken at this moment. But suppose a 
series of untoward events should occur, sufficient to bring 
into doubt the competency of a republican government 
to meet a crisis of great danger, or to unhinge the con 
fidence of the people in the public functionaries ; an 
institution like this, penetrating by its branches every 
part of the union, acting by command and in phalanx, 
may, in a critical moment, upset the government. I 
deem no government safe which is under the vassalage 
of any self-constituted authorities, or any other autho 
rity than that of the nation, or its regular functionaries. 
What an obstruction could not this bank of the United 
States, with all its branch banks, be in time of war 1 It 
might dictate to us the peace we should accept, or with 
draw its aids. Ought we then to give farther growth to 
an institution so powerful, so hostile? That it is so 
hostile we know, 1. from a knowledge of the principles 
of the persons composing the body of directors in every 
bank, principal or branch ; and those of most of the 
stock-holders; 2. from their opposition to the measures 
and principles of the government, and to tjie election of 
those friendly to them : and, 3. from the sentiments of 
the newspapers they support. Now, while we are strong, 
it is the greatest duty we owe to the safety of our consti 
tution, to bring this powerful enemy to a perfect subor 
dination under its authorities. The first measure would 
be to reduce them to an equal footing only with other 
banks, as to the favors of the government. But, in order 
to be able to meet a general combination of the banks 
against us, in a critical emergency, could we not make 
a beginning towards an independent use of our own 
money, towards holding our own bank in all the deposits 
where it is received, and letting the Treasurer give his 
draft or note for payment at any particular place, which, 
in a well conducted government, ought to have as much 
credit as any private draft, or bank note, or bill, and 
would give us the same facilities which we derive from 
the banks 1 I pray you to turn this subject in your 
mind, and give it the benefit of your knowledge of de- 

386 LIFE OF 

tails ; whereas, I have only very general views of the 
subject? 7 

POLITICAL PARTIES. C I know too well the weakness 
and uncertainty of human reason, to wonder at its dif 
ferent results. Both of our political parties, at least the 
honest part of them, agree conscientiously in the same 
object, the public good : but they differ essentially in 
what they deem the means of promoting that good. 
One side believes it best done by one composition of the 
governing powers ; the other, by a different one. One 
fears most the ignorance of the people; the other, the 
selfishness of rulers independent of them. Which is 
right, time and experience will prove. We think that 
one side of this experiment has been long enough tried, 
and proved not to promote the good of the many : and 
that the other has not been fairly and sufficiently tried. 
Our opponents think the reverse. With whichever opi 
nion the body of the nation concurs, that must prevail. 
My anxieties on this subject will never carry me beyond 
the use of fair and honorable means of truth and reason; 
nor have they ever lessened my esteem for moral worth, 
nor alienated my affections from a single friend, who did 
not first withdraw himself. Wherever this has happened, 
I confess I have not been insensible to it : yet have ever 
kept myself open to a return of their justice. 

1 The fact is, that at the formation of our government, 
many had formed their political opinions on European 
writings and practices, believing the experience of old 
countries, and especially of England, abusive as it was, 
to be a safer guide than mere theory. The doctrines of 
Europe were, that men in numerous associations cannot 
be restrained within the limits of order and justice, but 
by forces physical and moral, wielded over them by 
authorities independent of their will. Hence their or 
ganization of kings, hereditary nobles, and priests. Still 
farther to constrain the brute force of the people, they 
deem it necessary to keep them down by hard labor, 
poverty, and ignorance, and to take from them, as from 
bees, so much of their earnings, as that unremitting labor 
shall be necessary to obtain a sufficient surplus barely to 
sustain a scanty and miserable life. And these earnings 
they apply to maintain their privileged orders in splen- 


dor and idleness, to fascinate the eyes of the people, and 
excite in them a humble adoration and submission, as 
to an order of superior beings. 

SOVEREIGNS OF EUROPE. When I observed, how 
ever, that the king of England was a cipher, I did not 
mean to confine the observation to the mere individual 
now on that throne. The practice of kings marrying 
only into the families of kings, has been that of Europe 
for some centuries. Now, take any race of animals, con 
fine them in idleness and inaction, whether in a sty, a 
stable, or a state-room, pamper them with high diet, 
gratify all their sexual appetites, immerse them in sen 
sualities, nourish their passions, let every thing bend 
before them, and banish whatever might lead them to 
think, and in a few generations they become all body, 
and no mind : and this, too, by a law of nature, by that 
very law by which we are in the constant practice of 
changing the characters and propensities of the animals 
we raise for our own purposes. Such is the regimen in 
raising kings, and in this way they have gone on for cen 
turies. While in Europe, I often amused myself with 
contemplating the characters of the then reigning sove 
reigns of Europe. Louis the XVI was a fool, of my 
own knowledge, and in despite of the answers made for 
him at his trial. The king of Spain was a fool, and of 
Naples the same. They passed their lives in hunting, 
and dispatched two couriers a week, one thousand miles, 
to let each other know what game they had killed the 
preceding days. The king of Sardinia was a fool. All 
these were Bourbons. The Queen of Portugal, a Bra- 
ganza, was an idiot by nature. And so was the king of 
Denmark. Their sons, as regents, exercised the powers 
of government. The king of Prussia, successor to the 
great Frederick, was a mere hog in body as well as in 
mind. Gustavus of Sweden, and Joseph of Austria, 
were really crazy, and George of England you know 
was in a straight waistcoat. There remained, then, none 
but old Catherine, who had been too lately picked up to 
have lost her common sense. In this state Bonaparte 
found Europe ; and it was this state of its rulers which 
lost it with scarce a struggle. These animals had be 
come without mind and powerless ; and so will every 



hereditary monarch be after a few generations. Alex 
ander, the grandson of Catherine, is as yet an exception. 
He is able to hold his own. But he is only of the third 
generation. His race is not yet worn out? And so 
endeth the book of kings, from all of whom the Lord 
deliver us, and have you, my friend, and all such good 
men and true, in his holy keeping. 

taking General Washington on your shoulders, to bear 
him harmless through the federal coalition, you encounter 
a perilous topic. I do not think so. You have given 
the genuine history of the course of his mind through 
the trying scenes in which it was engaged, and of the 
seductions by which it was deceived, but not depraved. 
I think I knew General Washington intimately and 
thoroughly ; and were I called on to delineate his char 
acter, it should be in terms like these. 

* His mind was great and powerful, without being of 
the very first order ; his penetration strong, though not 
so acute as that of a Newton, Bacon, or Locke ; and as 
far as he saw, no judgment was ever sounder. It was 
slow in operation, being little aided by invention or 
imagination, but sure in conclusion. Hence the com 
mon remark of his officers, of the advantage he derived 
from councils of war, where, hearing all suggestions, he 
selected whatever was best ; and certainly no general 
ever planned his battles more judiciously. But if de 
ranged during the course of the action, if any member 
of his plan was dislocated by sudden circumstances, he 
was slow in a re-adjustment. The consequence was, 
that he often failed in the field, and rarely against an 
enemy in station, as at Boston and York. He was inca 
pable of fear, meeting personal dangers with the calmest 
unconcern. Perhaps the strongest feature in his charac 
ter was prudence, never acting until every circumstance, 
every consideration, was maturely weighed ; refraining 
if he saw a doubt, but, when once decided, going through 
with his purpose, whatever obstacles opposed. His in 
tegrity was most pure, his justice the most inflexible I 
have ever known, no motives of interest or consanguinity, 
of friendship or hatred, being able to bias his decision. 
He was, indeed, in every sense of the words, a wise, a 


good, and a great man. His temper was naturally irri 
table and high-toned ; but reflection and resolution had 
obtained a firm and habitual ascendancy over it. If ever, 
however, it broke its bonds, he was most tremendous in 
his wrath. In his expenses he was honorable, but exact; 
liberal in contributions to whatever promised utility ; but 
frowning and unyielding on all visionary projects, and 
all unworthy calls on his charity. His heart was not 
warm in its affections ; but he exactly calculated every 
man s value, and gave him a solid esteem proportioned 
to it. His person, you know, was fine, his stature exactly 
what one would wish ; his deportment easy, erect, and 
noble ; the best horseman of his age, and the most grace 
ful figure that could be seen on horseback. Although in 
the circle of his friends, where he might be unreserved 
with safety, he took a free share in conversation, his col 
loquial talents were not above mediocrity, possessing 
neither copiousness of ideas, nor fluency of words. In 
public, when called on for a sudden opinion, he was un 
ready, short, and embarrassed. Yet he wrote readily, 
rather diffusely, in an easy and correct style. This he 
had acquired by conversation with the world, for his 
education was merely reading, writing, and common 
arithmetic, to which he added surveying at a later day. 
His time was employed in action chiefly, reading little, 
and that only in agriculture and English history. His 
correspondence became necessarily extensive, and, with 
journalizing his agricultural proceedings, occupied most 
of his leisure hours within doors. On the whole, his 
character was, in its mfiss, perfect; in nothing bad, in 
few points indifferent; and it may truly be said> that 
never did nature and fortune combine more perfectly to 
make a man great, and to place him in the same constel 
lation with w hatever worthies have merited from man an 
everlasting remembrance. For his was the singular des 
tiny and merit, of leading the armies of his country suc 
cessfully through an arduous war, for the establishment 
of its independence ; of conducting its councils through 
the birth of a government, new in its forms and princi 
ples, until it had settled down into a quiet and orderly 
train ; and of scrupulously obeying the laws through 
the whole of his career, civil and military, of which the 
history of the world furnishes no other example. 

890 LIFE .OF 

RELIGIOUS. The result of your fifty or sixty years 
of religious reading in the four words, " Be just and 
good," is that in which all our inquiries must end ; as the 
riddles of all the priesthoods end in four more, " Ubipa- 
nis, ibi deus." What all agree in, is probably right, what 
no two agree in, most probably wrong. One of our fan- 
coloring biographers, who paints small men as very great, 
inquired of me lately, with real affection too, whether he 
might consider as authentic, the change in my religion 
much spoken of in some circles. Now this supposed 
that they knew what had been my religion before, tak 
ing for it the word of their priests, whom I certainly 
never made the confidants of my creed. My answer 
was, " Say nothing of my religion. It is known to my 
God and myself alone. Its evidence before the world is 
to be sought in my life; if that has been honest and du 
tiful to society, the religion which has regulated it cannot 
be a bad one." 

ON THE LOSS OF FRIENDS. When you and I look 
back on the country over which we have passed, what a 
field of slaughter does it exhibit. Where are all the 
friends who entered it with us, under all the inspiring 
energies of health and hope?. As if pursued by the 
havoc of war, they are strewed by the way, some earlier, 
some later, and scarce a few stragglers remain to count 
the numbers fallen, and to mark yet, by their own fall, 
the last footsteps of their party. Is it a desirable thing 
to bear up through the heat of the action to witness the 
death of all our companions, and merely be the last vic 
tim 1 I doubt it. We have, however, the traveller s 
consolation. Every step shortens the distance we have 
to go ; the end of our journey is in sight, the bed where 
in we are to rest, and to rise in the midst of the friends 
we have lost. " W r e sorrow not, then, as others who have 
no hope ;" but look forward to the day which " joins us 
to the great majority." But whatever is to be our des 
tiny, wisdom, as well as duty, dictates that we should 
acquiesce in the will of Him whose it is to give arid take 
away, and be contented in the enjoyment of those who 
are still permitted to be with us. Of those connected by 
blood, the number does not depend on us. But friends 
we have, if we have merited them. Those of our earli- 



est years stand nearest in our affections. But in this too, 
you and I have been unlucky. Of our college friends 
(and they are the dearest) how few have stood with us 
in the great political questions which have agitated our 
country ; and these were of a nature to justify agitation. 
I did not believe the Lilliputian fetters of that day strong 
enough to have bound so many. 


losophy. I think it lost time to attend lectures cfn this 
branch. He who made us would have been a pitiful 
bungler, if he had made the rules of our moral conduct a 
matter of science. For one man of science, there are 
thousands who are not. What would have become of 
them 1 Man was destined for society. His morality 
therefore, was to be formed to this object. He was en 
dowed with a sense of right and wrong, merely relative 
to this. This sense is as much a part of his nature, as 
the sense of hearing, seeing, feeling ; it is the true foun 
dation of morality, and not the to kalon, truth, &c, as 
fanciful writers have imagined. The moral sense, or 
conscience, is as much a part of man, as his leg or arm. 
It is given to all human beings, in a stronger or weaker 
degree, as force of members is given them in a greater 
or less degree. It may be strengthened by exercise, as 
may any particular limb of the body. This sense is sub 
mitted, indeed, in some degree, to the guidance of rea 
son ; but it is a small stock which is required for this ; 
even a less one than what we call common sense. State 
a moral case fc> a ploughman, and to a professor. The 
former will decide it as well, and often better than the 
latter, because he has not been led astray by artificial 
rules. In this branch, therefore, read good books, be 
cause they will encourage, as well as direct your feelings. 
Read the books mentioned in the enclosed paper : and, 
above all things, lose no occasion of exercising your dis 
positions to be grateful, to be generous, to be charitable, 
to be humane, to be true, just, firm, orderly, courageous, 
<fcc. Consider every act of this kind, as an exercise 
which will strengthen your moral faculties, and increase 
your worth. 

TRAVELLING. This makes men wiser, but less happy. 

392 LIFE OF 

When men of sober age travel, they gather knowledge, 
which they may apply usefully for their country ; but 
they are subject ever after to recollections mixed with 
regret ; their affections are weakened by being extended 
over more objects ; and they learn new habits, which 
cannot be gratified when they return borne. Young 
men who travel are exposed to all these inconveniences . 
in a higher degree, to others still more serious, and do 
not acquire that wisdom for which a previous foundation 
is requisite, by repeated and just observations at home. 
The glare of pomp and pleasure is analogous to the mo 
tion of the blooal ; it absorbs all their affection and at 
tention ; they are torn from it as from the only good in 
this world, and return to their home as to a place of 
exile and condemnation. Their eyes are forever turned 
back to the object they have lost, and its recollection poi 
sons the residue of their lives. Their first and most de 
licate passions are hackneyed on unworthy objects here, 
and they carry home the dregs, insufficient to make 
themselves or any body else happy. Add to this, that a 
habit of idleness, an inability to apply themselves to busi 
ness is acquired, and renders them useless to themselves 
and their country. These observations are founded in 
experience. There is no place where your pursuit of 
knowledge will be so little obstructed by foreign objects, 
as in your own country, nor any, wherein the virtues of 
the heart will be less exposed to be weakened. Be good, 
be learned, and be industrious, and you will not want the 
aid of travelling, to render you precious to your country, 
dear to your friends, happy within yoifrself. I repeat 
my advice, to take a great deal of exercise and on foot. 
Health is the first requisite after morality. * 


This letter will, to you, be as one from the dead. The 
writer will be in the grave before you can weigh its 
councils. Your affectionate and excellent father has re 
quested that 1 would address to you something which 
might possibly have a favorable influence on the course 
of life you have to run, and I too, as a namesake, feel an 

* Addressed to Peter Carr. 


interest in that course. Few words will be necessary, 
with good dispositions on your part. Adore God. Re 
verence and cherish your parents. Love your neighbor 
as yourself, and your country more than yourselff Be 
just. Be true. Murmur not at the ways of Providence. 
So shall the life, into which you have entered, be the 
portal to one of eternal and ineffable bliss. And if to the 
dead it is permitted to take care for the things of this 
world, every action of your life will be under my regard. 
Farewell. * 

The Portrait of a Good Man, by the most sublime of Poets, 
for your imitation. 

LOIID, who s the happy man that may to thy blest courts repair, 

Not stranger like to visit them, but to inhabit there ? 

Tis he, whose every thought and deed by rules of virtue moves ; 

Whose generous tongue disdains to speak the thing his heart dis 

Who never did a slander forge, his neighbor s fame to wound ; 

Nor hearken to a false report, by malice whispered round. 

Who vice, in all its pomp and power, can treat with just neglect ; 

And piety, though clothed in rags, religiously respect. 

Who to his plighted vows and trust has ever firmly stood ; 

And though he promise to his loss, he makes his promise good. 

Whose soul in usury disdains his treasure to employ ; 

Whom no rewards can ever bribe the guiltless to destroy. 

The man, who, by his steady course, has happiness insured, 

When earth s foundations shake, shall stand, by Providence se 

4 A Decalogue of Canons for observation in practical life. 

1. Never put off till to-morrow what you can do to 

2. Never trouble another for what you can do your 

3. Never spend your money before you can have it. 

4. Never buy what you do not want, because it is 
cheap ; it will be dear to you. 

5. Pride costs us more than hunger, thirst and cold. 

6. We never repent of having eaten too little. 

7. Nothing is troublesome that we do willingly. 

* To T. Jefferson Smith. 

394 LIFE OF 

8. How much pain have cost us the evils which have 
never happened. 

9. Take things always by their smooth handle. 

10. When angry, count ten before you speak ; if very 
angry, a hundred. 

HABITS OF LIVING. Your letter came to hand on the 
1st instant ; and the request of the history of my physi 
cal habits would have puzzled me not a little, had it not 
been for the model with which you accompanied it, of 
Doctor Rush s answer to a similar inquiry. I live so 
much like other people, that I might refer to ordinary 
life as the history of my own. Like my friend the Doc 
tor, I have lived temperately, eating little animal food, 
and that not as an aliment, so much as a condiment for 
the vegetables, which constitute my principal diet. I 
double, however, the Doctor s glass and a half of wine, 
and even treble it with a friend ; but halve its effect by 
drinking the weak wines only. The ardent wines I can 
not drink, nor do I use ardent spirits in any form. Malt 
liquors and cider are my table drinks, and my breakfast, 
like that also of my friend, is of tea and coffee. I have 
been blest with organs of digestion, which accept and 
concoct, without ever murmuring, whatever the palate 
chooses to consign to them, and I have not yet lost a 
tooth by age. I was a hard student until I entered on 
the business of life, the duties of which leave no idle time 
to those disposed to fulfil them ; and now, retired, and at 
the age of seventy-six, I am again a hard student. In 
deed my fondness for reading and study revolts me from 
the drudgery of letter-writing. And a stiff wrist, the 
consequence of an early dislocation, makes writing both 
slow and painful. I am not so regular in my sleep as 
the Doctor says he was, devoting to it from five to eight 
hours, according as my company or the book I am read 
ing interests me ; and 1 never go to bed without an hour, 
or a half hour s previous reading of something moral, 
whereon to ruminate in the intervals of sleep. But 
whether I retire to bed early or late, I rise with the sun. 
I use spectacles at night, but not necessarily in the day, 
unless in reading small print. My hearing is distinct in 
particular conversation, but confused when several voices 
cross each other, which unfits me. for the society of the 


table. I have been more fortunate than my friend in the 
article of health. So free from catarrhs that I have not 
had one (in the breast, I mean) on an average of eight 
or ten years through life. I ascribe this exemption part 
ly to the habit of bathing my feet in cold water every 
morning for sixty years past. A fever of more than 
twenty-four hours I have not had above two or three 
times in my life. A periodical headache has afflicted me 
occasionally, once, perhaps, in six or eight years, for two 
or three weeks at a time, which seems now to have left 
me ; arid, except on a late occasion of indisposition, I 
enjoy good health ; too feeble, indeed, to walk much, 
but riding without fatigue six or eight miles a day, and 
sometimes thirty or forty. I may end these egotisms, 
therefore, as I began, by saying that my life has been so 
much like that of other people, that I might say with 
Horace, to every one, " Nomine mutato, narratur fabula 
de te." 

The limits to which we are confined, are a warning 
against an extension of the interesting catalogue, or it 
might be pursued indefinitely. The cabinet of the illus 
trious recluse, besides exhibiting a faithful portrait of 
himself, contains the wisdom of a long life of wonderful 
experience and opportunities, and opens an inexhausti 
ble store of materials for the historian, the philosopher, 
the moralist, patriot, philanthropist, and statesman. His 
course of life, while in retirement, was filled with acti 
vity, and indulged in those occupations, which were the 
master passions of every portion of it, reading, science, 
correspondence, the cultivation of his farm, the endear 
ments of family, and delights of social intercourse. He 
carried into his retirement the same order and severity 
of system, which had enabled him to surmount the great 
est complication of duties in public life. He rose with 
the sun. From that time to breakfast, and often until 
noon, he was in his cabinet, chiefly employed in episto 
lary correspondence. From breakfast, or noon at latest, 
to dinner, he was engaged in his work-shops, his garden, 
or on horseback among his farms. From dinner to dark, 

396 LIFE OF 

he gave to society and recreation with his neighbors and 
friends ; and from candle-light to bed-time, he devoted 
himself to reading and study. Gradually, as he grew 
older, he became seized with a canine appetite for read 
ing, as he termed it, and he indulged it freely, as prom 
ising a relief against the tedium senectulis. His reading was 
of the most substantial kind. Thucydides, Tacitus, Hor 
ace, Newton, and Euclid, were his constant companions. 
When young, mathematics was his passion. The same 
returned upon him in his old age, but probably with un 
equal power. Processes, he complained, which he 
could then read off with the facility of common discourse, 
now cost him labor and time, and slow investigation. 
Yet no one but himself was sensible of any decay in his 
intellectual energies. He possessed uncommon health, 
with a constitutional buoyancy unbroken, and improved 
by the salubrity of his mountain residence ; arid his 
strength, which was yielding under the weight of years, 
was considerably re-inforceJ by the activity of the course 
he pursued. I talk of ploughs and harrows, he wrote 
to a friend, of seeding and harvesting, with my neigh 
bors, and of politics too, if they choose, with as little re 
serve as the rest of rny fellow citizens, and feel, at length, 
the blessing of being free to say and do what I please, 
without being responsible for it to any mortal. A part 
of his occupation was the direction of the studies of young 
men ; multitudes of whom resorted to him. They locat 
ed themselves in the neighboring village of Charlottes- 
ville, where they were invited to a free access to his 
library, enjoyed the benefit of his counsel, participated 
of his hospitality, and made a part of his daily society. 
1 In advising the course of their reading, said he, I en 
deavor to keep their attention fixed on the main objects 
of all science, the freedom and happiness of man. So 
that coming to bear a share in the councils and govern 
ment of their country, they will keep ever in view the 
sole objects of all legitimate government, 


The agricultural operations of Mr Jefferson were con 
ducted upon an extensive scale, and consequently engaged 
a great share of his attention. The domains at Monti- 
cello, including the adjoining estates, contained about 
eleven thousand acres, of which about fifteen hundred 
were cleared. In addition to this, he owned a large es 
tate in Bedford county, by right of his wife, from which 
he raised annually about 40,000 weight of tobacco, 
and grain sufficient to maintain the plantation. He vis 
ited this estate, about seventy miles distant, once every 
year, which kept him from home six or seven weeks at 
a time. He had about two hundred negroes on his 
farms, who required a constant superintendence, more 
especially, under the peculiar system of agriculture 
which he pursued. But his choicest labors in this de 
partment, were bestowed on that delightful and beloved 
spot, where all his labors were to end, as they had been 
begun. He had reclaimed its ruggedness, when a very 
young man, and of its wilderness made a garden ; and 
now, in his old age, he returned to the farther develop 
ment and improvement of its natural beauties. 

MONTICELLO is derived from the Italian. It signifies 
little mountain, modest title for an eminence, rising 
six hundred feet above the surrounding country, and 
commanding one of the most extensive and variegated 
prospects in the world. The base of the mountain, 
which is washed by the Ravanna, exceeds a mile in di 
ameter ; and its sides are encompassed by four parallel 
roads, sweeping round it at equal distances, and so 
connected with each other by easy ascents, as to afford, 
when completed, a level carriage-way of almost seven 
miles. The whole mountain, with the exception of the 
summit, is covered with a dense and lofty forest. On 
the top is an elliptic plain of about ten acres, formed by 
the hand of art, cutting down the apex of the mountain. 
This extensive artificial level is laid out in a beautiful 
lawn, broken only by lofty weeping willows, poplars, 

398 LIFE OF 

acacias, catalpas, and other trees of foreign growth, dis 
tributed at such distances as not to obstruct the view 
from the centre in any direction. On the West, stretch 
ing away to the North and the South, the prospect is 
bounded only by the Alleganies, a hundred miles dis 
tant in some parts, overreaching all the intervening 
mountains, commanding a view of the Blue Ridge for a 
hundred and fifty miles, and looking down upon an en 
chanting landscape, broad as the eye can compass, of 
intermingling villages and deserts, forest and cultivation, 
mountains, valleys, rocks and rivers. On the East is a 
literal immensity of prospect, bounded only by the hori 
zon, in which nature seems to sleep in eternal repose. 
From this grand point, bringing under the eye a most 
magnificent panorama, are overlooked, like pigmies, all 
the neighboring mountains as far as Chesapeake. Hence 
it was that the youthful philosopher, before the revolu 
tion, was wont to scrutinize the motions of the planets, 
with the revolutions of the celestial sphere ; and to wit 
ness that phenomenon described in his Notes on Virgin 
ia, as among the sublimest of nature s operations, the 
looming of the distant mountains. From this elevated 
seat he was wont to enjoy those scenes to which he re 
verted with so much fondness while in France : * And 
our own dear Monticello ; where has nature spread so 
rich a mantle under the eye 1 mountains, forests, rocks, 
rivers. With what majesty do we there ride above the 
storms ! How sublime to look down into the work 
house of nature, to see her clouds, hail, snow, rain, thun 
der, all fabricated at our feet ! and the glorious sun 
when rising as if out of a distant water, just gilding the 
tops of the mountains, and giving life to all nature. 
From this proud summit, too, the patriot, in the lan 
guage of a visitor, could look down, with uninterrupted 
vision, upon the wide expanse of the world around, for 
which he considered himself born ; and upward, to the 
open and vaulted heavens which he seemed to approach, 


as if to keep him continually in mind of his high respon 
sibility. It is indeed a prospect in which you see and 
feel at once, that nothing mean or little could live. It 
is a scene fit to nourish those great and high-souled 
principles which formed the elements of his character, 
and was a most noble and appropriate post for such a 
sentinel over the rights and liberties of man. 

In the centre of this eminence rose the magnificent 
mansion of the patriarch. It was erected and furnished 
in the days of his affluence ; and was such a one, in all 
respects, as became the character and fortune of the 
man. The main structure is one hundred feet in length, 
from East to West, and above sixty in depth, from North 
to South, presenting a front in every direction. The 
basement story is raised five or six feet above the ground, 
from which springs the principal story, above twenty 
feet in height, whereon rests an attic of about eight 
feet. The whole is surmounted by a lofty dome of twen 
ty eight feet in diameter, rising from the centre of the 
building. The principal front faces the East, and is 
adorned with a noble portico, balancing a corresponding 
one on the West. The north and south fronts present 
arcades or piazzas, under which are cool recesses that 
open upon a floored terrace, projecting a hundred feet 
in a straight line, and then another hundred feet at right 
angles, until terminated by pavilions of two stories high. 
Under the whole length of these terraces is a range of 
one story buildings, in which are the offices requisite 
for domestic purposes, and the lodgings of the house 
hold servants. The exterior of the structure is finished 
in the Doric order complete, with balustrades on the top 
of it ; the internal contains specimens of all the different 
orders, except the composite, which is not introduced. 
The hall is in the Ionic, the dining room in the Doric, 
the parlor in the Corinthian, and the dome in the Attic. 
Improvements and additions, both useful and ornament 
al, were continually going on, as they were suggested 

400 LIFE OF 

by the taste of the owner. Indeed, the whole building 
had been almost in a constant state of re-building, from 
its ante-revolutionary form, which was highly finished, 
to the present time ; and so I hope it will remain dur 
ing my life, said he to a visitor, as architecture is my 
delight, and putting up, and pulling down, one of my 
favorite amusements. 

On the declivities of the mountain are arranged the 
dwellings of artificers and mechanics of every de 
scription, and their work shops ; for it was the study 
of the illustrious proprietor to make himself perfectly in 
dependent. He had his carpenter s shop, his black 
smith s shop, cabinet shop, <fec, &c, with a complete 
suit of manufactories for cottons and woollens, grain 
mills, sawing mills, and a nail factory conducted by boys. 
His carriage was made by his own workmen, as were 
also many articles of his fine furniture. The fabrication 
with his own hands of curious implements and models, 
was one of his favorite amusements. 

On entering the mansion by the east front, the visitor 
is ushered into a spacious and lofty hall, whose hang 
ings announce at once the character and ruling passions 
of the man. On the right, on the left, and around, his 
eye is struck with objects of science and taste. On one 
side are specimens of sculpture, in the form of statues 
and busts, disposed in such order, as to exhibit at one 
view the historical progress of the art ; from the first 
rude attempts of the aborigines of our country, to the 
most finished models of European masters, including 
a bust of the patriot himself, from the hand of Ca- 
racci. Among others are noticed the bust cf a male 
and female sitting in the Indian position, supposed to be 
very ancient, having been ploughed up in Tennessee ; a 
full length figure of Cleopatra, in a reclining position, 
after she had applied the asp ; the busts of Voltaire and 
Turgot, in plaster. His own bust stands on a truncated 
column, on the pedestal of which are represented the 


twelve tribes of Israel, and the twelve signs of the Zo 
diac. On the other side of the hall are displayed a vast 
collection of specimens of Indian art, their paintings, 
engravings, weapons, ornaments, manufactures, statues, 
and idols; and on another, a profusion of natural curi 
osities, prodigies of ancient art, "fossil productions of 
every description, mineral and animal, &c, &c. Among 
others are particularly noticed a model of the great pyr 
amid of Egypt ; the upper and lower jaw bones and 
tusks of the mammoth, advantageously contrasted with 
those of an elephant. 

From the hall the visitor enters a spacious saloon, 
through large folding doors. In this apartment, the 
walls are covered with the modern productions of the 
pencil, historical paintings of the most striking subjects 
from all countries, and all ages ; scriptural paintings, 
among which are the ascension, the holy family, the 
scourging of Christ, and the crucifixion ; the portraits of 
distinguished characters, both of Europe and America; 
with engravings, coins, and medallions in endless pro 
fusion. Here, and in the other rooms, are the portraits 
of Bacon, Newton, and Locke ; of Columbus, Vespucius, 
Cortez, Magellan, Raleigh ; of Franklin, Washington, 
La Fayette, Adams, Madison, Rittenhouse, Paine, and 
many other remarkable men. Here, too, are the busts 
of Alexander and Napoleon, placed on pedestals upon 
each side of the door of entrance. 

The whole of the southern wing is occupied by the 
library, cabinet, and chamber of Mr Jefferson. The li 
brary is divided into three apartments, opening into each 
other, the walls of which are covered with books and 
maps. It contained at one time the greatest private col 
lection of books ever known in the United States, and 
incomparably the most valuable, from the multitude of 
rare works and the general superiority of the editions. 
He had been fifty years enriching and perfecting his as 
sortment, omitting no pains, opportunities or expense. 



While in Paris he devoted every afternoon he was disen 
gaged, for a summer or two, in examining the principal 
book stores, and putting by every thing which related 
to America, with whatever was valuable in the sciences. 
Besides this he had standing orders, during the whole 
time he was in Europe, in its principal bookmarts, for 
all such works as could not be found in Paris. After 
the conflagration of Washington in the last war, and 
the destruction of the library, he sold about ten thousand 
volumes to the government, to replace the devastations 
of British Vandalism. Confiding in the honor of Con 
gress, he made a tender of them to the government, at 
their own price. In his cabinet, he is surrounded with 
several, hundred of his favorite authors, lying near at 
hand, with every accommodation and luxury which ease 
or taste could suggest. This apartment opened into a 
green-house, filled with a collection of rare plants ; and 
he was seldom without some geranium or other plant 
beside him. Connected with his study were extensive 
apparatus for mathematical, philosophical, and optical 
purposes. It was supposed there was no private gentle 
man in the world in possession of so perfect and com 
plete a scientific, useful, and ornamental a collection as 
Mr Jefferson. 

Such is an imperfect representation of a patriarchal 
seat and appendages, whose just celebrity has attracted 
the wayfarer of every land. But who shall describe its 
great architect and occupant 1 Let this duty be dis 
charged by adopting the record of a distinguished guest : 

While the visitor was yet lost in the contemplation 
of these treasures of the arts and sciences, he was start 
led by the approach of a strong and sprightly step, and 
turning with instinctive reverence to the door of entrance, 
he was met by the tall, and animated, and stately figure 
of the patriot himself his countenance beaming with 
intelligence and benignity, and his outstretched hand, 
with its strong and cordial pressure, confirming the cour- 


teous welcome of his lips. And then came that charm 
of manner and conversation that passes all description 
so cheerful so unassuming so free, and easy, and 
frank, and kind, and gay that even the young, and 
overawed, and embarrassed visitor at once forgot his 
fears, and felt himself by the side of an old and familiar 
friend. There was no effort, no ambition in the con 
versation of the philosopher. It was as simple and un 
pretending as nature itself. And while in this easy man 
ner he was pouring out instruction, like light from an 
inexhaustible solar fountain, he seemed continually to be 
asking, instead of giving information. The visitor felt 
himself lifted by the contact, into a new and nobler re 
gion of thought, and became surprised at his own buoy 
ancy and vigor. He could not, indeed, help being as 
tounded, now and then, at those transcendent leaps of 
the mind, which he ^saw made without the slightest ex- 
ertion, and the ease with which this wonderful man 
played with subjects which he had been in the habit of 
considering among the argumcnta crucis of the intellect. 
And then there seemed to be no end to his knowledge. 
He was a thorough master of every subject that was 
touched. From the details of the humblest mechanic 
art, up to the highest summit of science, he was perfectly 
at his ease, and every where at home. There seemed to 
be no longer any terra incognita of the human under 
standing : for, what the visitor had thought so, he now 
found reduced to a familiar garden walk ; and all this 
carried off so lightly, so playfully, so gracefully, so en 
gagingly, that he won every heart that approached him, 
as certainly as he astonished every mind. 

Although reposing in the bosom of his native moun 
tains, and happy in the indulgence of pursuits and en 
joyments, from which nothing but revolutionary duties 
would ever have separated him, his seclusion did not 
shield him from those annoyances which are inseparable 
from renown. He was persecuted with a deluge of let- 

404 LIFE OF 

ters, of which every mail brought a fresh accumulation; 
not those from his intimate friends, but from strangers 
and others, who, as he said oppressed him, in the 
most friendly dispositions, with their concerns. This 
drew upon him a burden, which formed a great obstacle 
to the delights of retirement ; for it was a rule with Mr 
Jefferson, never to omit answering any respectful letter, 
however obscure the writer, or insignificant the object. 
Happening on one occasion to turn to his letter-list, his 
curiosity was excited to ascertain the number received 
in the course of a single year; and on counting, it ap 
peared there were one thousand two hundred and sixty 
seven, many of them requiring answers of elaborate re 
search, and all to be answered with due attention and 
consideration. Taking an average of this number for 
a week or a day, and he might well compare his drudge 
ry at the writing table to the life of a mill-horse, 
who sees no end to his circle but in death, or to the life 
of a cabbage, which was a paradise in contrast. For 
these intrusions, however, not a murmur escaped from 
him in public ; and when compelled to allude to them in 
his letters of friendship, as apologies for his apparent 
remissness in this department, he would lament them 
only, as the kind indiscretions which were so heavily 
oppressing the departing hours of life. 

To his persecutions from this source, was occasionally 
superadded the treachery of correspondents, in the pub 
lication of his letters ; which subjected him to much 
mortification and uneasiness, when his strongest desire 
was to die in the good will of all mankind. Conscious 
of his own singleness and honesty, he habitually trusted 
his fellow-man ; and though often betrayed, he would 
never surrender the happiness of this confidence. To 
the possession of this attribute, are to be ascribed in 
great part, the firmness and fidelity of that phalanx, 
which under every pressure of injustice, in every tempest 
of political dissension, supported him undismayed. He, 


who so fondly trusted others, was sure to be trusted him 
self. Thus am I situated, he wrote to a friend I re 
ceive letters from all quarters, some from known friends, 
some from those who write like friends on various sub 
jects. What am I to do 1 Am I to button myself up in 
Jesuitical reserve, rudely declining any answer, or an 
swering in terms so unmeaning, as only to prove my dis 
trust ? Must I withdraw myself from all interchange of 
sentiment with the world 1 I cannot do this. It is at 
war with my habits and temper. I cannot act as if all 
men were unfaithful, because some are so ; nor believe, 
that all will betray me because some do. I had rather 
be the victim of occasional infidelities, than relinquish 
my general confidence in the honesty of man. 

There is nothing more beautiful in the history of the 
retirement of this great man, than his exertions to revive 
the revolutionary affections between Mr Adams and him- | 
self, which had been interrupted by the intermediate con- \ 
flicts of political opinion. They had ceased in expres- ] 
sion only, not in their existence or cordiality, on the part I 
of Mr Jefferson, who regarded the discontinuance of 
friendly correspondence between them, as one of the 
most painful occurrences in his life. With Mr Adams, 
they had been affected, though never destroyed, partly 
by the sanguine cast of his constitution, but principally 
by the artful and imposing suggestions of busy in 
triguers, that Mr Jefferson perhaps participated in the 
electioneering activity and licentiousness of the contest 
which was overthrowing his administration. The injus 
tice of this imputation is apparent from the fact, that in 
his most confidential letters he never alluded to Mr 
Adams with personal disrespect, and even charged the 
errors of his administration upon his ministers and ad 
visers, not upon him. An instance of magnanimity to 
wards his competitor, has been recorded of him by a po 
litical opponent, who was an eye-witness of the scene. 
In Virginia, where the opposition to the federal aseen- 

406 LIFE OF 

dency ran high, the younger spirits of the day, catching 
their tone from the public journals, imputed to Mr Adams, 
on various occasions, in the presence of Mr Jefferson, a 
concealed design to overturn the republic, and supply its 
place with a monarchy on the British model. The an 
swer of Mr Jefferson to this charge, will never be for 
gotten by those who heard it, of whom there are many 
still living besides the particular narrator. It was this : 
1 Gentlemen, you do not know that man : there is not upon 
\ this earth a more perfectly honest man than John Adams. 
Concealment is no part of his character ; of that he is 
utterly incapable : it is not in his nature to meditate any 
Jthing that he would not publish to the world. The mea 
sures of the general government are a fair subject for dif 
ference of opinion. But do not found your opinions on 
the notion, that there is the smallest spice of dishonesty, 
moral or political, in the character of John Adams ; for 
I know him well, and I repeat it, that a man more per 
fectly honest never issued from the hands of his Creator. * 
Two or three years after, to wit, in 1804, having had 
the misfortune to lose a daughter, between whom and 
Mrs Adams there had been considerable intimacy, she 
made it the occasion of writing Mr Jefferson a letter of 
condolence ; in which, with sentiments of concern for 
the event, she avoided a single expression of friendship 
towards himself, and even concluded it with the wishes 
* of her who once took pleasure in subscribing herself 
your friend, &c. Unpromising as was the complex 
ion of this letter, he seized the partial opening which it 
offered, to make an effort towards removing the clouds 
from between them. The answer of Mr Jefferson ex 
pressed the warmest sensibility for the kindness mani 
fested towards his daughter ; went largely into explana 
tions of the circumstances which had seemed to draw a 
line of separation between them ; and breathed fervent 

* Wirt s Eulogy. 


wishes for a reconciliation with herself and Mr Adams. 
In conclusion, he said : * I have thus, my dear madam, 
opened myself to you without reserve, which I have long 
wished an opportunity of doing ; and without knowing 
how it will be received, I feel relief from being unbosom 
ed. And I have only now to entreat your forgiveness for 
this transition from a subject of domestic affliction, to one 
which seems of a different aspect. But though connect 
ed with political events, it has been viewed by me most 
strongly in its unfortunate bearings on my private friend 
ships. The injury these have sustained has been a heavy 
price for what has never given me equal pleasure. That 
you both may be favored with health, tranquillity and 
long life, is the prayer of one who tenders you the assur 
ance of his highest consideration and esteem. This let 
ter was followed by a farther correspondence between the 
parties, from which, soon finding that reconciliation was 
desperate, he yielded to an intimation in the last letter 
of Mrs Adams, and ceased from farther explanations. 

Being now retired from all connection with the politi 
cal world, with every ground of jealousy removed, his 
determination, with his hopes, revived to make another 
effort towards restoring a friendly understanding with 
his revolutionary colleague. To this end he opened a 
correspondence with Dr Rush, a mutual friend, upon the 
subject; to whom he gave a history of all that had hap 
pened between them ; enclosed to him the late unsuccess 
ful correspondence ; and expressed his undiminished at 
tachment to Mr Adams, with the wish that he would use 
his endeavors to re-establish ancient dispositions between 
them. A short time after, two of Mr Jefferson s neigh 
bors and friends, while on a tour to the northward, fell in 
company with Mr Adams at Boston, and passed a day 
with him at Braintree. In the freedom and enthusiasm 
of the occasion, he spoke out every thing which came 
uppermost, without reserve ; dwelt particularly upon his 
own administration, and alluded to his masters, as he 

408 LIFE OF 

called his heads of department, representing them as hav 
ing acted above his control and often against his opin 
ions. Among other topics, he adverted to the unprinci 
pled licentiousness of the press against Mr Jefferson, ad 
ding, I always loved Jefferson, and still love him. 

The moment Mr Jefferson received this intelligence he 
again wrote to his friend Rush : 

This is enough for me. I only needed this knowl 
edge to revive towards him all the affections of the most 
cordial moments of our lives. Changing a single word 
only in Dr Franklin s character of him, I knew him to 
be always an honest man, often a great one, but some 
times incorrect and precipitate in his judgments : and it 
is known to those who have ever heard me speak of Mr 
Adams, that I have ever done him justice myself, and de 
fended him when assailed by others, with the single ex- 
\ception as to his political opinions. But with a man 
^possessing so many other estimable qualities, why should 
Iwe be dissocialized by mere differences of opinion in pol 
itics, in religion, in philosophy, or any thing else. His 
I opinions are as honestly formed as my own. Our differ- 
I ent views of the same subject are the result of a differ- 
1 ence in our organization and experience. I never with 
drew from the society of any man on this account, al 
though many have done it from me ; much less should I 
do it from one with whom I had gone through, with hand 
and heart, so many trying scenes. I wish, therefore, but 
for an apposite occasion to express to Mr Adams my un 
changed affections for him. There is an awkwardness 
which hangs over the resuming a correspondence so long 
discontinued, unless something could arise which should 
call for a letter. Time and chance may perhaps gene 
rate such an occasion, of which I shall not be wanting in 
promptitude to avail myself. From this fusion of mutual 
affections, Mrs Adams is of course separated. It will 
only be necessary that I never name her. In your letters 
to Mr Adams, you can perhaps, suggest my continued 
cordiality towards him, and knowing this, should an oc 
casion of writing first present itself to him, he will per 
haps avail himself of it, as I certainly will, should it first 
occur to me. No ground for jealousy no.vv existing, he 


will certainly give fair play to the natural warmth of his 
heart. Perhaps I may open the way in some letter to 
my old friend Gerry, who I know is in habits of the 
greatest intimacy with him. 

I have thus, rny friend, laid open my heart to you, be 
cause you were so kind as to take an interest in healing 
again revolutionary affections, which have ceased in ex 
pression only, but not in their existence. God ever bless 
you and preserve you in life and health. 

In the course of another month, these two patriarchs 
of the revolution were brought together, after a ten years 
suspension of all friendly intercommunication. The cor 
respondence which passed between them is highly inter 
esting. It has been well described, as resembling more 
than any thing else, one of those conversations in the 
Elysium of the ancients, which the shades of the depart 
ed great were supposed to hold, with regard to the af 
fairs of the world they had left. Mr Jefferson s part, or 
probably the greatest portion of it, has already been giv 
en to the world, and would make a volume of itself. A 
few disjointed fragments, of the personal and desultory 
kind, taken promiscuously from his letters of different 
dates, are all that can be expected to enter into this gen 
eral view of the correspondence. 

A letter from you calls up recollections very dear to 
my mind. It carries me back to the times when, beset 
with difficulties and dangers, we were fellow laborers in 
the same cause, struggling for what is most valuable to 
man, his right of self-government. Laboring always at 
the same oar, with some wave ever ahead threatening to 
overwhelm us, and yet passing harmless under our bark, 
we knew not how we rode through the storrn with heart 
and hand, and made a happy port. Still we did not ex 
pect to be without rubs and difficulties ; and we have 
had them. First the detention of the western posts : 
then the coalition of Pilnitz, outlawing our commerce 
with France, and the British enforcement of the out 
lawry. In your day, French depredations : in mine, 
English, and the Berlin and Milan decrees : now, the 

410 LIFE OF 

English orders of council, and the piracies they autho 
rise. When these shall be over, it will be the impress 
ment of our seamen, or something else r and so we have 
gone on, and so we shall go on, puzzled and prospering 
beyond example in the history of man. And I do be 
lieve we shall continue to grow, to multiply and pros 
per, until we exhibit an association, powerful, wise> 
and happy, beyond what has yet been seen by men.* 

* I have thus stated my opinion on a point on which 
we differ, not with a view to controversy, for we are 
both too old to change opinions which are the result of 
a long life of enquiry and reflection ; but on the sug 
gestion of a former letter of yours, that we ought not to 
die before we have explained ourselves to each other. 
We acted in perfect harmony, through a long and peril 
ous contest for our liberty and independence. A con 
stitution has been acquired, which, though neither of us 
thinks perfect, yet both consider as competent to render 
our fellow citizens the happiest and the securest on 
whom the sun has ever shone. If we do not think ex 
actly alike as to its imperfections, it matters little to 
our country, which, after devoting to it long lives of dis 
interested labor, we have delivered over to our succes 
sors in life, who will be able to take care of it and of 

*I learned with great regret the serious illness men 
tioned in your letter ; and I hope Mr Rives will be able 
to tell me you are entirely restored. But our machines 
have now been running seventy or eighty years, and we 
must expect that, worn as they are, here a pivot, there 
a wheel, now a pinion, next a spring, will be giving way ; 
and however we may tinker them up for a while, all will 
at length surcease motion. Our watches, with works of 
brass and steel, wear out within that period. Shall you 
and I last to see the course the seven-fold wonders of 
the times will take ? The Attila of the age dethroned, 
the ruthless destroyer of ten millions of the human 
race, whose thirst for blood appeared unquenchable, the 
great oppressor of the rights and liberties of the world, 
shut up within the circuit of a little island of the MedU 
terranean, and dwindling to the condition of a humble 


and degraded pensioner on the bounty of those he has 
most injured. How miserably, how meanly, has he 
closed his inflated career ? What a sample of the ba 
thos will his history present ! He should have perished 
on the swords of his enemies under the walls of Paris. 

You ask, if I would agree to live my seventy or 
rather seventy-three years over again ? To which I say, 
yea. I think with you, that it is a good world on the 
whole ; that it has been framed on a principle of benevo 
lence, and more pleasure than pain dealt out to us. 
There are. indeed, (who might say nay) gloomy and hy 
pochondriac minds, inhabitants of diseased bodies, dis 
gusted with the present, and despairing of the future ; 
always counting that the worst will happen, because it 
may happen. To these I say, how much pain have cost 
us the evils which have never happened ! My tempera 
ment is sanguine. I steer my bark with Hope in the 
head, leaving Fear astern. My hopes, indeed, some 
times fail ; but not oftener than the forebodings of the 
gloomy. There are, I acknowledge, even in the hap 
piest life, some terrible convulsions, heavy set-offs against 
the opposite page of the account. I have often wonder 
ed for what good end the sensations of grief could be 
intended. All our other passions, within proper bounds, 
have a useful object. And the perfection of the moral 
character is, not in a stoical apathy, so hypocritically 
vaunted, and so untruly too, because impossible, but in 
a just equilibrium of all the passions. I wish the patho- 
logists then would tell us what is the use of grief in the 
economy, and of what good it is the cause, proximate or 

The public papers, my dear friend, announce the 
fatal event of which your letter of October the 20th, had 
given me ominous foreboding. Tried myself in the 
school of affliction, by the loss of every form of connec 
tion which can rive the human heart, I know well and 
feel what you have lost, what you have suffered, are suf 
fering, and have yet to endure. The same trials have 
taught me that, for ills so immeasurable, time and 
silence are the only medicine. I will not, therefore, by 
useless condolences, open afresh the sluices of your 

412 LIFE OF 

grief, nor, although mingling sincerely my tears with 
yours, will I say a word more where words are vain, 
but that it is of some comfort to us both, that the term is 
not very distant, at which we are to deposit in the same 
cerement our sorrows and suffering bodies, and to ascend 
in essence to an ecstatic meeting with the friends we have 
loved and lost, and whom we shall still love, and never 
lose again. God bless you, and support you under~your 
heavy affliction. 

Putting aside these things, however for the present, 
I write this letter as due to a friendship coeval with our 
government, and now attempted to be poisoned,* when 
too late in life to be replaced by new affections. I had 
for some time observed, in the public papers, dark hints 
and mysterious inuendoes of a correspondence of yours 
with a friend, to whom you had opened your bosom with 
out reserve, and which was to be made public by that 
friend or his representative. And now it is said to be 
actually published. It has not yet reached us, but ex 
tracts have been given, and such as seemed most likely 
to draw a curtain of separation between you and myself. 
Were there no other motive than that of indignation 
against the author of this outrage on private confidence, 
whose shaft seems to have been aimed at yourself more 
particularly, this would make it the duty of every honor 
able mind to disappoint that aim, by opposing to its 
impression a seven-fold shield of apathy and insensi 
bility. With me, however, no such armor is needed. 
The circumstances of the times in which we have hap 
pened to live, and the partiality of our friends at a par 
ticular period, placed us in a state of apparent opposi 
tion, which some might suppose to be personal also: 
and there might not be wanting those who wished to 
make it so, by filling our ears with malignant falsehoods, 
by dressing up hideous phantoms of their own creation, 
presenting them to you under my name, to me under 
yours, and endeavoring to instil into our minds things 
concerning each other the most destitute of truth. And 
if there had been, at any time, a moment when we were 
off our guard, and in a temper to let the whispers of 

<-.* Alluding to the Cunningham Correspondence. 


these people make us forget what we had known of each 
other for so many years, and years of so much trial, yet 
all men, who have attended to the workings of the hu 
man mind, who have seen the false colors under which 
passion sometimes dresses the actions and motives of 
others, have seen also those passions subsiding with time 
and reflection, dissipating like mists before the rising 
sun, and restoring to us the sight of all things in their 
true shape and colors. It would be strange, indeed, if, 
at our years, we were to go an age back to hunt imagi 
nary or forgotten facts, to disturb the repose of affec 
tions so sweetening to the evening of our lives. Be as 
sured, my dear Sir, that I am incapable of receiving the 
slightest impression from the effort now made to plant 
thorns on the pillow of age, worth, and wisdom, and to 
sow tares between friends who have been such for near 
half a century. Beseeching you, then, not to suffer 
your mind to be disquieted by this wicked attempt to 
poison its peace, and praying you to throw it by among 
the things which have never happened, I add sincere as 
surances of my unabated and constant attachment, 
friendship and respect. 

But the cultivation of the affections and the delights 
of philosophical and agricultural occupation, were sub 
jects which engaged only a subordinate share of the at 
tention of Mr Jefferson. One other enterprise of public 
utility, which it was reserved for him to accomplish, 
constituted the engrossing topic of his mind, from the 
moment of his return to private life, to the hour of his 
death. This was the establishment of the University of 
Virginia. Having assisted in achieving for his country 
the blessings of civil and religious liberty, he considered 
the work but half completed, without securing to pos 
terity the means of preserving that condition of moral 
culture on which the perpetuation of those blessings de 
pends. It was one of the first axioms established in his 
mind, that the liberties of a nation could never be safe 
but in the hands of the people, and that too of the people ; 
with a certain degree of instruction. A system of edu-f 

414 LIFE OF 

/ cation, therefore, which should reach every description 
/ of citizens, as it was the earliest, so it was the latest of 
/ public concerns in which he permitted himself to take an 
I interest. 

The opinions of Mr Jefferson on the subjuct of edu 
cation were given in detail, while the revised code of 
Virginia was under consideration ; of which the bill for 
the general diffusion of knowledge, drafted by him, 
was a distinguishing feature. The system marked out 
in that bill, proposed three distinct grades of instruction ; 
which may be explained by adopting a single expression 
of the author, to give the highest degrees of education 
to the higher degrees of genius, and to all degrees of it, 
so much as may enable them to read and understand 
what is going on in the world, and to keep their part of 
it going on right. No part of this system had been car 
ried into effect by the legislature, except that proposing 
the elementary grade of instruction ; and the intention 
of this was completely defeated by the option given to 
the county courts.* The university composed the ulti 
mate grade of the system, and was the one which pecu 
liarly enlisted the zeal of the founder, without however 
subtracting from his devotion to the whole scheme. In 

* To promote this object of elementary instruction, money was 
appropriated by the legislature for the support of free schools 
throughout the State. Men in easy circumstances, and able to 
send their children to better schools would not accept this pri 
vilege ; and those, who might have considered such a privilege 
desirable under different circumstances, would not accept for their 
own children, what their more wealthy neighbors considered too 
unworthy for theirs ; and it took the character of a legislative 
bounty which none but mean persons or paupers would improve, 
and soon became wholly neglected by all. In many if not in all 
parts of New England, free schools, from the same cause which so 
effectually put them down in Virginia, are falling into disrepute, 
viz. the increasing inequality in the condition of the people, and 
the disposition of the rich to embrace for their children better op 
portunities for improvement than is afforded to all at the public ex 


this institution, like those of the university rank in Eu 
rope, it was his intention to have taught every branch 
of science, useful to mankind, and in its highest degree; 
with such a classification of the sciences into particular 
groups, as to require so many professors only as might 
bring them within the views of a just economy. 

The plan of the university was .original with Mr Jef 
ferson the offspring of his genius, aided by his exten 
sive observations while in Europe. The university of 
Virginia is emphatically his work. His was the first 
conception, having been started by him more than forty 
years ago ; his, the subsequent impulse which brought it 
to maturity ; his, the whole scheme of its studies, organ 
ization and government ; and his the architecture of its 
buildings, in which he improved the occasion to present 
a specimen of each of the orders of the art, founded on 
Grecian and Roman models. He did this last with a 
view to inspire the youth who resorted thither, with the 
imposing associations of antiquity, and to retrieve, as 
far as he could, the character of his country from that 
pointed sarcasm in his Notes on Virginia, that the gen 
ius of architecture seems to have shed its maledictions 
over this land. Being located within four miles of Mon- 
ticello, he superintended its erection daily, and with the 
purest satisfaction. The plan of the building embraced : 
1st. Pavilions, arranged on either side of a lawn, inde 
finite in length, to contain each a lecture room, and pri 
vate apartments sufficient to accommodate a professor 
and his family. 2d. A range of Dormitories, connecting 
the pavilions, of one story high, sufficient each for the 
accommodation of two students only as the most ad 
vantageous to morals, order and uninterrupted study, 
with a passage under cover from the weather, giving a 
communication along the whole range. 3d. Hotels, for 
the dieting of the students, to contain each a single room 
fora refectory, and accommodations sufficient for the ten 
ants charged with this department. 4th. A Rotunda, or 

416 LIFE OP 

large circular building, in which were rooms for religious 
worship, under such regulations as the visitors should 
prescribe ; for public examinations, for a library, for 
schools of music, drawing and other purposes. The 
principal novelties in the scheme of its studies, were a 
professorship of the principles of government, to be 
founded in the riglits of man, to use the language of the 
originator ; a professorship of agriculture ; one of modern 
languages, among which the Anglo-Saxon was inclu 
ded, that the learner might imbibe with their language, 
their free principles of government ; and the absence of 
a professorship of divinity, * to give fair play to the cul 
tivation of reason, as well as to avoid the constitutional 
objection against a public establishment of any religious 
instruction. A rector and board of visitors, appointed 
by the legislature, composed the government of the insti 
tution ; and their first meeting was in August, 1818, at 
Rockfish Gap, on the Blue Ridge, at which Mr Jefferson 
presided, and drafted the first annual report to the legis 
lature. He was also appointed rector of the university, 
in which office he continued until his death, whenTTe was 
succeeded by Mr Madison. The establishment went in 
to operation in the spring of 1825, and is now in a flour 
ishing condition. 

The weight of opposition which this institution encoun 
tered, through every stage of its progress, were such as 
would have been insurmountable to any person possess 
ing less perseverance, or less ascendency of personal 
character than Mr Jefferson. Besides the ordinary cir 
cumstances of resistance, common to every enterprise of 
the kind in this country, it was met at the outset by a 
combination of religious jealousies, probably never equal 
led. Hostile as they were in every other point, to one 
another, all the religious sects in the State cordially co 
operated in the effort to frustrate an institution which,i 
from the circumstance of its favoring no particular school 
of divinity to the exclusion of another, was presumed to 


be inimical to all religion. These antipathies, with the 
host of sectional rivalries, the steady counteraction of 
William and Mary, and the tardy pace of the public pat 
ronage, produced an array of difficulties which was ob 
served to cloud the brow of Mr Jefferson with an anxiety 
to which he was a stranger under the most afflicting oc 
currences of his political career. Yet he never despair 
ed, resolving to die in the last ditch rather than give 
way. After an exhortation to one of his colleagues of 
the visitation, to exert all his faculties to allay the op 
position, and arouse the legislature to a sense of their 
distresses, he says : 

* I have brooded, perhaps with fondness, over this es 
tablishment, as it held up to me the hope of continuing 
to be useful while I continued to live. I had believed 
that the course and circumstances of my life had placed 
within my power some services favorable to the outset of 
the institution. But this may be egotism ; pardonable, 
perhaps, when I express a consciousness that my col 
leagues and successors will do as well, whatever the leg 
islature shall enable them to do. 

Again he writes to another friend of the university in 
the legislature : 

When I retired from the administration of public af 
fairs, I thought I saw some evidence that I retired with a 
good degree of public favor, and that my conduct-in of 
fice had been considered by the one party at least, with 
approbation, and with acquiescence by the other. But 
the attempt, in which I have embarked so earnestly, 
to procure an improvement in the moral condition of 
my native State, although, perhaps, in other States it 
may have strengthened good dispositions, has assuredly 
weakened them in our own. The attempt ran foul of so 
many local interests, of so many personal views, and so 
much ignorance, and I have been considered as so par 
ticularly its promoter, that I see evidently a great change 
of sentiment towards myself. I cannot doubt its having 
dissatisfied with myself a respectable minority, if not a 
majority of the house of delegates. I feel it deeply and 



very discouragingly ; yet I shall not give way. I have 
ever found in my progress through life, that acting for 
the public, if we do always what is right, the approba 
tion denied in the beginning will surely follow us in the 
end. It is from posterity we are to expect renumera- 
tion, for the sacrifices we are making for their service of 
time, quiet, and good will. 

At another time he bursts forth in a letter to one of 
his colleagues, in a strain of despondency mingled with 
supplication, strongly portraying the difficulties in the 
way, and the solicitude which he felt for the result : 

* But the gloomiest of all prospects, is in the desertion 
of the best friends of the institution, for desertion I must 
call it. I know not the necessities which may force this 
on you. General Cocke, you say, will explain them to 
me ; but I cannot conceive them, nor persuade myself 
they are uncontrollable. I have ever hoped, that your 
self, General Breckenridge, and Mr Johnson, would 
stand at your posts in the legislature, until every thing 
was effected, and the institution opened. If it is so dif 
ficult to get along with all the energy and influence of 
our present colleagues in the legislature, how can we 
expect to proceed at all, reducing our moving power? 
I know well your devotion to your country, and your fore 
sight of the awful scenes coming on her, sooner or later. 
With this foresight, what service can we ever render her 
equal to this ? What object of our lives can we propose 
so important ? What interest of our own which ought 
not to be postponed to this ? Health, time, labor, on what 
in the single life which nature has given us, can these be 
better bestowed than on this immortal boon to our coun 
try ? The exertions and the mortifications are tempora 
ry ; the benefit eternal. If any member of our college 
of visitors could justifiably withdraw from this sacred 
duty, it would be myself, who quadragenis stipendiis jam- 
dudumpcractis, have neither vigor of body nor mind left 
to keep the field : but 1 will die in the last ditch, and so 
I hope you will, my friend, as well as our firm-breasted 
brothers and colleagues, Mr Johnson and General Breck 
enridge. Nature will not give you a second life where 
in to atone for the omissions of this. Pray then, dear 


and very dear sir, do not think of deserting us, but view 
the sacrifices which seem to stand in your way, as the 
lesser duties, and such as ought to be postponed to this, 
the greatest of all. Continue with us in these holy la 
bors, until, having seen their accomplishment, we may 
say with old Simeon, Nunc dimittas, Domine" 

The enthusiasm with which the patriarch embarked in 
this great undertaking, arose in a principal degree from 
its contemplated bearing on the future destinies of hi 
country in a political sense. He intended it as a sch 
for the future politicians and statesmen of the republi 
in whose service he had worn out his life. The illustrii 
ous man who succeeded him in its rectorship, has said :\ 
This temple dedicated to science and liberty, was, after 
Mr Jefferson s retirement from the political sphere, the 
object nearest his heart, and so continued to the end of 
his life. His devotion to it was intense, and his exer 
tions unceasing. It bears the stamp of his genius, and 
will be a noble monument to his fame. His general view 
was to make it a nursery of republican patriots, as well as 
genuine scholars. 

The satisfaction with which he reflected on the suc 
cess of his labors, is expressed with a noble pride in a 
personal communication to the legislature, a little be 
fore his death, wrung from him by the pressing hand of 

4 The effect, says he, of this institution on the future 
fame, fortune, and prosperity of our country, can as yet 
be seen but at a distance. But a hundred well educa 
ted youths, which it will turn out annually, and ere 
long, will fill all its offices with men of superior qualifi 
cations, will raise it from its humble state to an emi 
nence among its associates which it has never yet 
known ; no, not in its brightest days. That institution 
is now qualified to raise its youth to an order of science 
unequalled in any other State ; and this superiority will 
be the greater from the free range of mind encouraged 
there, and the restraint imposed at other seminaries by 



the shackles of a domineering hierarchy, and a bigoted 
adhesion to ancient habits. Those now on the theatre 
of affairs will enjoy the ineffable happiness of seeing 
themselves succeeded by sons of a grade of science be 
yond their own ken. Our sister States will also be re 
pairing to the same fountains of instruction, will bring 
hither their genius to be kindled at our fire, and will 
carry back the fraternal affections which, nourished by 
the same Alma Mater, will knit us to them by the in 
dissoluble bonds of early personal friendships. The 
good old dominion, the blessed mother of us all, will 
then raise her head with pride among the nations, will 
present to them that splendor of genius which she has 
ever possessed, but has too long suffered to rest uncul 
tivated and unknown, and will become a centre of ral- 
liance to the States whose youths she has instructed, 
and, as it were, adopted. I claim some share in the 
merits of this great work of regeneration. My whole 
labors, now for many years, have been devoted to it, 
and 1 stand pledged to follow it up through the remnant 
of life remaining to me. 

Such were the concluding labors of one who had 
numbered more than four score years, and devoted sixty 
of them uninterruptedly to the service of his country. 
Long after the most of those who were his original ad 
herents or opponents had disappeared from the world, 
he continued the champion of the same political doc 
trines which he espoused in the fire of youth ; nay, upon 
the verge of the grave he stood, as it were, the embodied 
spirit of the revolution, in all its purity and power, 
nourishing with its wholesome influence the acting gene 
ration of his country, and distributing its revolutionary 
energies among the nations of the earth which still 
slumbered in despotism. 

Why should we attempt coolly to particularize the dis 
tinguishing features of a public character, whose de 
velopments in the aggregate were so extraordinary, and 
have given so powerful and lasting a direction to the 
current of human thought ? Adopting a humble imita- 


tion of his delineation of general Washington, may it 
not be summarily represented as in the mass perfect, 
in many points unrivalled, in nothing bad, in few points 

His heart was most fervent in its affections ; and as 
confiding as innocence itself, never harboring a suspi 
cion of the depository of its trust, and, what is more 
uncommon, as tenacious as it was ardent and confiding, 
holding on to its object without abatement under every vi 
cissitude. His friendships were indissoluble, those con 
tracted earliest continuing the same through life. His 
justice was severe, sacrificing the claims of the closest 
ties of affection, to avoid the contamination of dishonor. 
His temper was proverbially even, serene, and buoyant ; 
thrusting fear always aside, and cherishing habitually 
the fond incitements of hope. Of domestic life he was 
at once the adorer and the idol, ever anxious to forego 
honors and emoluments for its enjoyment ; and such 
was the influence of his affection upon those around him, 
that he was almost worshipped by his family. He de 
lighted in the society of children, with whom he was 
accustomed in his old age, to practise feats of agility 
which few could imitate. Being taken by surprise on 
one of these occasions, by the entrance of a stranger, he 
grasped his hand, and smiling, said : I will make no 
other apology than the good Henry the Fourth did, 
when he was caught by an ambassador playing horse 
and riding one of his children on his back, by asking, 
are you a father ? if you are, no apology is necessary. 
His powers of conversation were of the highest order ; 
and made him the soul and centre of the social circle. 
Of the warmth of his social dispositions, the range of 
his private correspondence affords the most convincing 
proofs. Even in the angry period of 98, so memorable 
for its dissocializing spirit, he wrote to a distinguished 
political opponent : I feel extraordinary gratification 
in addressing this letter to you, with whom shades of 


difference in political sentiment have not prevented the 
interchange of good opinion, nor cut oif the friendly 
offices of society and good correspondence. This poli 
tical tolerance is the more valued by me, who consider 
social harmony as the first of human felicities, and the 
happiest moments those which are given to the effusions 
of the heart. 

But the most interesting fragment of this nature, is 
found in a letter of friendship while in France, of which 
the following are extracts : 

* I hope in God, no circumstance may ever make 
either seek an asylum from grief! With what sincere 
sympathy I would open every cell of my heart, to re 
ceive the effusion of their woes ! I would pour my tears 
into their wounds ; and if a drop of balm could be found 
on the top of the Cordilleras, or at the remotest sources 
of the Missouri, I would go thither myself to seek and 
to bring it. Deeply practised in the school of affliction, 
the human heart knows no joy which I have not lost, 
no sorrow of which I have not drank ! Fortune can 
present no grief of unknown form to me ! Who, then, 
can so softly bind up the wound of another, as he who 
has felt the same wound himself? 

And what more sublime delight, than to mingle 
tears with one whom the hand of Heaven hath smitten ! 
to watch over the bed of sickness, and to beguile its 
tedious and its painful moments ! to share our bread 
with one to whem misfortune has left none f This world 
abounds indeed with misery : to lighten its burthen, we 
must divide it with one another. But let us now try 
the virtue of your mathematical balance, and as you 
have put into one scale the burthens of friendship, let 
me put its comforts into the other. When languishing 
then under disease, how grateful is the solace of our 
friends ! how are we penetrated with their assiduities 
and attentions ! how much are we supported by their 
encouragements and kind offices ! When Heaven has 
taken from us some object of our love, how sweet is it 
to have a bosom whereon to recline our heads, and into 
which we may pour the torrent of our tears ! Grief, 


with such a comfort is almost a luxury ! In a life where 
we are perpetually exposed to want and accident, yours 
is a wonderful proposition, to insulate ourselves, to re 
tire from all A aid, and to wrap ourselves in the mantle of 
self-sufficiency ! For assuredly nobody will care for 
him, who cares for nobody. But friendship is precious, 
not only in the shade, but in the sunshine of life ; and 
thanks to a benevolent arrangement of things, the greater 
part of life is sunshine. * * Let the gloomy monk, 
sequestered from the world, seek unsocial pleasures in 
the bottom of his cell ! Let the sublimated philosopher 
grasp visionary happiness, while pursuing phantoms 
dressed in the garb of truth ! Their supreme wisdom is 
supreme folly : and they mistake for happiness the mere 
absence of pain. Had they ever felt the solid pleasure 
of one generous spasm of the heart, they would exchange 
for it all the frigid speculations of their lives, which 
you have been vaunting in such elevated terms. Be 
lieve me, then, my friend, that that is a miserable arith 
metic, which could estimate friendship at nothing, or at 
less than nothing. 

Owing in part, if not altogether to a general pressure 
upon the landed interest in Virginia, which had been felt 
for several preceding years, the affairs of Mr Jefferson 
became embarrassed, and in February, 1826, an act pass 
ed the legislature of Virginia to dispose of his estates by 
means of a lottery. The scheme of the lottery embrac 
ed three great prizes, to wit, the Monticello estate, valued 
at TljOOO dollars ; the Shad well mills adjoining it, valued 
at 30,000; and the Albemarle estate, at 11,500. The 
Bedford tract was not thrown in, because, being derived 
from his wife, Mr Jefferson had only a life estate in it, 
with power to convey it to their descendants in such por 
tions as he chose. Otherwise this estate would have 
gone in with the rest. 

Simultaneously with the proceedings in the Virginia 
legislature, and as soon as it became known that Mr Jef 
ferson was in a state of pecuniary distress, a spontane 
ous feeling of gratitude burst forth in every section of 



the union. The paltry expedient of a lottery was con 
sidered too cold and calculating a remedy for a case 
which addressed itself to all the nobler sympathies of the 
human heart. Public meetings were called in all the 
considerable cities of the union, at which feeling and 
high spirited resolutions were passed, and subscriptions 
opened, which were as suddenly filled with contributions 
to the relief of the suffering apostle of human liberty. 
The legislature of Louisiana, actuated by a peculiar 
sense of gratitude to the author of their admission into 
the republic, immediately passed an act appropriating 
ten thousand dollars to be placed at his disposal. The 
legislature of South Carolina, it is believed, did the same. 
Various schemes were proposed, in different places, in 
all which the leading object appeared to be, how to be 
stow their bounty so as to give least pain to the delicacy 
of his feelings. 

But Mr Jefferson lived to derive very little benefit from 
these voluntary offerings of a grateful people, and none 
from the legislative provision of his native State. His 
health had been impaired by a too free use of the hot 
spring bath in 1818. From that time his indisposition 
steadily increased until the spring of 1826, when it at 
tained a troublesome and alarming violence, giving cer 
tain indications of a gradual approach of dissolution. 
Of the issue he seemed perfectly aware. On the 
5th of June, he observed to a friend that he doubted his 
weathering the present summer. On the 24th of June, 
his disorder and weakness having reached a distressing 
point, he yielded to the entreaties of his family and saw 
his physician, Dr Dungleson of the university. On 
this occasion he warned a friend who came to see him on 
private business, that there was no time to be lost ; and 
expressed with regret his only apprehension, that he 
could not hold out to see the blessed Fourth of July ; 
that he had called in a physician, and to gratify his fam 
ily, would follow his prescriptions, but that it would prove 


unavailing the machine had worn out and would go 
on no longer. On the same day, he addressed that most 
remarkable letter to the mayor of Washington, copies of 
which, elegantly printed and framed, adorn the mantel 
pieces of many of the private dwellings in that city, and 
the walls of its public edifices. This was the last letter 
he ever wrote, and surely none was better fitted to be the 

1 Respected Sir, The kind invitation I receive from 
you, on the part of the citizens of the city of Washing 
ton, to be present with them at their celebration on the 
fiftieth anniversary of American independence, as one 
of the surviving signers of an instrument pregnant with 
our own, and the fate of the world, is most flattering to 
myself, and heightened by the honorable accompaniment 
proposed for the comfort of such a journey. It adds 
sensibly to the sufferings of sickness, to be deprived by 
it of a personal participation in the rejoicings of that 
day. But acquiescence is a duty, under circumstances 
not placed among those we are permitted to control. I 
should indeed, with peculiar delight, have met and ex 
changed there congratulations personally with the small 
band, the remnant of that host of worthies, who joined 
with us on that day, in the bold and doubtful election we 
were to make for our country, between submission or the 
sword ; and to have enjoyed with them the consolatory 
fact, that our fellow-citizens, after half a century of ex 
perience and prosperity, continue to approve the choice 
we made. May it be to the world, what I believe it will 
be (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to 
all,) the signal of arousing men to burst the chains under 
which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded 
them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings and 
security of self-government. That form which we have 
substituted, restores the free right to the unbounded ex 
ercise of reason and freedom of opinion. All eyes are 
opened, or opening, to the rights of man. The general 
spread of the light of science has already laid open to 
every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind 
has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a fa 
vored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legiti- 

426 LIFE OF 

mately, by the grace of God. These are grounds of 
hope for others. For ourselves, let the annual return of 
this day for ever refresh our recollections of these rights, 
and an undiminished devotion to them. 

I will ask permission here to express the pleasure 
with which I should have met my ancient neighbors of 
the city of Washington and its vicinities, with whom I 
passed so many years of a pleasing social intercourse ; 
an intercourse which so much relieved the anxieties of 
the public cares, and left impressions so deeply engraved 
in my affections as never to be forgotten. With my re 
gret that ill health forbids me the gratification of an ac 
ceptance, be pleased to receive for yourself, and those 
for whom you write, the assurance of my highest respect 
and friendly attachments. 

On the 28th of June, a friend from a distance visited 
him on private business, and has left an affecting account 
of his interview. * As I approached the house, says he, 
4 the anxiety and distress visible in the countenance of 
the servants, increased the gloom of my own forebodings, 
and I entered it under no little agitation. After the ob 
ject of my call was made known to Mrs Randolph, she 
told me that although her father had been expecting to 
see me, he was then too unwell to receive any orte. It 
was but too evident, that the fears of his daughter over 
balanced her hopes ; and while sympathising in her dis 
tress, I could not help sighing to think that, although 
separated from him only by a thin wall, I was never 
more to behold the venerable man, who had entered all 
the walks of politics and philosophy, and in all was fore 
most and to whom the past, present and all future 
ages are, and will be so much indebted. However, Mrs 
Randolph having left me, to attend to her father, soon 
returned, and observed that she had taken it for granted 
that he could not see me ; but upon her casually men 
tioning my arrival, he had desired I should be invited in 
to his chamber. My emotions at approaching Jefferson s 
dying bed, I cannot describe. You remember the alcove 


in which he slept. There he was extended feeble, 
prostrate ; but the fine and clear expression of his coun 
tenance not at all obscured. At the first glance he re 
cognized me, and his hand and voice at once saluted me. 
The energy of his grasp, and the spirit of his conversa 
tion, were such as to make rne hope he would yet rally 
and that the superiority of mind over matter in 
his composition, would preserve him yet longer. He re 
gretted that I should find him so helpless, talked of the 
freshet then prevailing in James River, and said he had 
never known a more. destructive one. He soon, howev 
er, passed to the university, expatiated on its future utility, 
commended the professors, and expressed satisfaction at 
the progress of the students. A sword was suspended 
at the foot of his bed, which he told me was presented to 
him by an Arabian chief, and that the blade was a true 
Damascus. At this time he became so cheerful as to 
smile, even to laughing, at a remark I made. He al 
luded to the probability of his death, as a man would to 
the prospect of being caught in a shower, as an event 
not to be desired, but not to be feared. Upon proposing 
to withdraw, I observed that I would call to see him 
again. He said, well do, but you will dine here to-day. 
To this I replied, I proposed deferring that pleasure 
until he got better. He waved his hand and shook his 
head with some impatience, saying, emphatically, you 
must dine here, my sickness makes no difference. I 
consented, left him, and never saw him more. 

During the four or five days remaining to him, his de 
cay was gradual, but visible. Of this no one was more 
conscious than himself; yet he retained to the last mo 
ment of his existence, the same serene, decisive, and 
cheerful temper, which had marked his eventful history. 
He often recurred with spirit and animation to the uni 
versity, and expressed his hope that * the State would not. 
now abandon it. He spoke of the changes which he 
feared would be made in it ; of his probable successor 

428 LIFE OF 

as Rector ; of the services he had rendered to his native 
State ; and counselled and advised as to his private af 
fairs. Upon being unusually ill for a short time, he ob 
served very cheerfully, Well, Doctor, a few hours more 
and the struggle will be over. He called in his family, 
and conversed calmly and separately with each of them. 
To his daughter he presented a small morocco case 
which he requested her to open immediately after his 
decease. On opening the case it was found to contain 
an elegant and affectionate strain of poetry * on the vir 
tues of his dutiful and incomparable daughter. When 
the 3d of July arrived, upon enquiring with some solici 
tude the day of the month, he expressed a fervent de 
sire to live till the next day, that he might breathe the 
air of the fiftieth anniversary, when he would joyfully 
sing, with old Simeon, " Nunc Dimittas, Dornine" In 
the few short intervals of delirium which occurred, his 
mind relapsed to the age of the revolution, with all the 
enthusiasm of that period. He talked, in broken sen 
tences, of the committees of safety, and the rest of that 
great machinery, which he imagined to be still in mo 
tion. One of his exclamations was, Warn the com 
mittee to be on their guard, and he instantly rose in his 
bed, with the help of his attendants, and went through 
the act of writing a hurried note. But his reason was 
almost constantly in her seat, when the great topics on 
which he dwelt, were the happiness of his only and be 
loved child, the University of Virginia, and the advent of 
the approaching anniversary. 

When the morning of that day came, he appeared to 
be thoroughly impressed that he should not live through 
it, and only expressed a desire that he might survive un 
til mid-day. He seemed perfectly at ease, and ready 
to die. When the Doctor entered his room, he said, 
1 Well, Doctor, you see I am here yet. His disorder 
being checked, a friend expressed a hope of amendment. 
His reply was, that the powers of nature were too much 


exhausted to be rallied. To a member of his family who 
remarked that he was better, and that the Doctor thought 
so, he listened with evident impatience, and said, Do 
not imagine for a moment that /feel the smallest solic 
itude as to the result. He then calmly gave directions 
for his funeral, forbidding all pomp and parade ; 
being answered by a hope that it would be long ere the 
occasion would require their observance, he asked, with 
a smile, Do you think I fear to die ? A few moments 
after, he called his family and friends around his bed 
side, and uttered distinctly the following sentence : * I 
have done for my country, and for all mankind, all that 
I could do, and I now resign my soul, without fear, to 
my God, my daughter to my country. These were the 
last words he articulated his last solemn declaration 
to the world his dying will and testament, bequeath 
ing his most precious gifts, to his God and his country. 
All that was heard from him afterwards, was a hurried 
repetition, in indistinct and scarcely audible accents, of 
his favorite ejaculation, Nunc Dimittas, Domine Nunc 
Dimittas, Domine. He sunk away imperceptibly, and 
breathed his last, without a struggle or a murmur, at ten 
minutes before one o clock, on the great JUBILEE of 
American liberty the day, and hour too, on which the 
Declaration of Independence received its final reading, 
and the day, and hour, on which he prayed to Heaven 
that he might be permitted to depart. 

Was not the hand of God most affectingly displayed 
in this event, as if to add another to the multiplied 
proofs of His special superintendence over this happy 
country ? On the anniversary of a day the most dis 
tinguished in the annals of mankind on its fiftieth an 
niversary, and in merciful fulfilment of his last earthly 
prayer, he closed his eyes. Few of the miracles record 
ed in the sacred writings, are more conspicuous or im 
posing. Mark again the extraordinary protraction of 
physical existence manifested in the last moments of Mr 

430 LIFE OF 

Jefferson, as if to render the coincidence more striking 
ly and beautifully complete. At eight o clock, P. M. 
on the 3d of July, his physician pronounced that he 
might be expected to die in any quarter of an hour from 
that time. Yet he lived seventeen hours longer, with 
out any evident pain or suffering, or restlessness ; with 
sensibility, consciousness, and intelligence for much more 
than twelve hours of the time ; and at last gradually 
subsided into inanimation like a lamp which had shone 
throughout a long dark night, spreading far and wide 
its beneficent rays, yet still lingering to usher in the 
broad day light upon mankind. 

Never was this nation more profoundly impressed 
than by the occurrence of this event. Instead of be 
ing viewed in the light of a calamity, there was not a 
heart which did not feel a mournful pleasure at the 
miraculous beauty of such a death. All business was 
suspended, as the intelligence spread through the coun 
try ; the minute guns were fired, the bells sounded a 
funeral note, the flags of the shipping fell half mast, and 
every demonstration of profound feeling was displayed. 
But five hours afterward, on the same day, died John 
Adams. In the same mighty spirit, also, with the last 
words, Independence forever^ and Jefferson survives. 

The extraordinary coincidence in the death of these 
great men, is without a parallel in the records of history. 
Were any doubts harbored of their sincere devotion to 
their country while living, they must surely be dissipa 
ted forever by the time and manner of their death. One, 
the author of the Declaration of Independence, the other 
its great champion and defender on the floor of Con 
gress, and both the only two survivors of the committee 
appointed to prepare that instrument, another and 
powerful confirmation was thus added, that Heaven it 
self mingled visibly in the jubilee celebration of Ameri 
can Liberty, hallowing anew the day by a double apoth- 


eosis. They were great and glorious in their lives ; in 
death they were not divided. It was indeed a fit occa 
sion for the deepest public feeling. Happening singly, 
each of these events was felt as supernatural ; happen 
ing together, the astonishment which they occasioned, 
was general and almost overwhelming. 

In a private memorandum, found among some other 
obituary papers of Mr Jefferson, was the suggestion that 
in case any memorial of him should ever be thought of, 
a small granite obelisk should be erected, with the follow 
ing inscription : 






Volumes of panegyric could never convey so adequate 
an idea of unpretending greatness, as is contained in this 
brief and modest epitome of all the splendid achieve 
ments of a long, an arduous, and incessantly useful life. 




This book is due on the last date stamped below, or 
on the date to which renewed. 
Renewed books are subject to immediate recall. 


MARl Q19S9 

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